Pause for Tot

New Year, Same Hot Mess

2013. Sounds so space age. But where’s my hoverboard, McFly? Why is earth the only planet I’ve been to? (I so want to see Uranus.) Where’s the cure for cancer already? And why am I still wiping my own ass? Like, GAWD, it’s 2013.

Technology has spoiled me rotten. Almost everything is right at my fingertips and available in a heartbeat. So the things that are still sluggish drive me to utter madness. Breakfast time alone is infuriating. Take the kettle. No really, take it. Even the electric one takes light years to boil. Every time I get a cup of tea, I sprout a chin whisker. And the toaster – has this invention evolved at all since it popped up (ha!) in 1919? By the time my bagel is browned, I’m ready to stick a fork in there just to end the agony.

And then there’s the redheaded rascal at the kitchen table demanding jam instead of butter and his toast cut into squares instead of triangles, who has his shirt on backwards and no pants, who runs and hides when it’s time to brush his teeth – a fate worse than death. And I’m running late for work, of course. So my morning dialogue with him sounds a lot like this: Come on, Max. Hurry up and get dressed, Max. Eat your breakfast faster, Max. We’re late, Max. We need to get going, Max. I can still see you behind the sex swing, Max. (Yeah, right. My husband wishes.)

The fly on the sugar-bowl shakes its head in disgust. I hate me too. Max is just being a kid, savouring the taste of raspberry jam, marvelling at the shape of his bread, swinging his naked legs under the table to the circus music in his head. And I’m here trying to rush him through the simple joys. Hurrying him along so we can get to what’s next. Slap me with a frying pan.

So now that it’s a brand new year, I guess my resolution is obvious: slow down and enjoy the moment. That’s what you’re expecting me to say, right? That’s where you think this is going. And perhaps that is where this should go. But alas…

As my last blog post might suggest, I’m not going to resolve to change my ways very much at all. I am what I am. I was born in a flame. Or the back of the Bonavista North Bus. Or something.

See, I’m fast. I scurry. I do look a lot like a squirrel. (Insert “nuts in mouth” joke here.) I hate golf but love tennis. I’d rather salsa than waltz. I hate melancholy music. (Adele can wail but she makes me want to kill myself every thirty seconds.) I type a gazillion words per minute with all the wrong fingers. The first time I attempted to bake bread, I grew so impatient waiting for the dough to rise I stabbed it 37 times with a cleaver.

It’s not that I don’t stop and smell the roses. I see beauty all around me. And I sit and ponder the meaning of life all the time. But then I realize my sitting and pondering has made me late for the Sit and Ponder Conference and I have to go turbo on everyone’s ass to get there.

And it’s not that I can’t relax. Oh I can relax. I get out of bed at the last possible moment. I am the mayor of Dreamland and the cloud people need me to lead them.

In a nutshell: life is chaos, it’s all my fault, but I just can’t help it so bite me. I’m a busy woman who is chewing what she has bitten off as fast as she can. I’m a hot mess, always in a rush to get where I’m going, dragging poor Max behind me. But damn it, I’m doing it. I’m getting there. Max is happy and smart and wonderful.

There is room for improvement for sure. Setting my alarm for 20 minutes earlier sure seems like a good idea. And driving the speed limit, that seems wise. But at this dawn of a new calendar year, I’m not going to make a grand pledge to change. To get my shit together so I can slow down and savour the moments and not smash a toaster. Because this motherfuckery works for me, mostly. So, save a few tweaks to spare my boy mommy’s madness, I’m going to resolve to keep making it work for me. A more ambitious pursuit is bound to fail because this bitch is a squirrel.

So my new year’s resolution is to keep clipping along. Typing fast. Working hard. Laughing loud. Raising my boy the best way I know how. And, wherever we go, leaving a trail of fire behind us. Word to your mother.

 

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Call me crazy.

I forgot my father’s birthday this year.

It’s okay, because he’s dead.

I never forgot his birthday when he was alive. Mainly because he reminded me constantly that his birthday was three weeks away… two weeks away… one week away… tomorrow… you get the idea.

He would have been 70 years old on September 17th.

But he expired in January of 2010 at age 67. The current life expectancy for a Canadian: 81. 67… Not a bad run, dad would have thought. He was like that. Never asked for much, except things like justice, respect, silence during CBC News, and a sleeve of golf balls on his birthday.

I forgot his birthday this year because my brain is so preoccupied with work and laundry and work. Or at least I think that’s why I forgot. I forget why I forgot.

Maybe I forgot because somewhere inside me, I’d rather not think about the man that’s not here to see my baby grow into a boy, or read my maniacal musings about motherhood, or call me every single day for no particular reason at all which drove me crazy until I realized there would soon come a time when the phone would stop ringing.

Dad was an eternal optimist, always looking on the bright side of the darkest things. So let’s try that for a second: Maybe there is an upside to going tits-up too early. Maybe expiring prematurely has its benefits. Sounds nuts, I know. Call me crazy, but it’s not so black and white.

On my flight back from Halifax a couple weeks ago, there was an elderly couple sitting in the row behind me on the opposite side of the plane. They must have been 80, at least. How lucky, I thought, as I always do when I see octogenarian duos. How lucky to still have each other. To still both be on this side of the sod. And soaring way above the sod, no less!

But I know, more often than not, it’s not as “side-by-side rocking chairs on the front porch” as I imagine.

I’ve seen The Notebook.

I’ve seen Away From Her.

And everything in the movies is totally true.

Seriously though.

I’ve had friends lose parents to Alzheimer’s disease long before they were dead. Just a few days ago, a friend and colleague of mine, Michael Pickard, lost his dad who had suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years. In a beautiful tribute to his father, he wrote:

Due to dad’s Alzheimer’s, we lost him an inch at a time. And it’s only when I reflected as the disease went on did I realize I missed him even when he was right in front of me. I have been missing this humble, clever, precise gentleman bit by bit for several years.

Read the whole story here. Tissues required.

I have several loved ones with parents and grandparents suffering from dementia. Folks who were once wits and writers and knitters and know-it-alls, who now don’t know their own child’s face.

It does not sound like fun.

When I first moved to St. John’s in 2000, I lived in the basement of a couple in their early eighties. In the middle of the night, I’d hear my landlady screaming at her husband, “You son of a bitch! You never touch me anymore!” I was like – Dude, really? You’re like a million years old. He won’t touch you because he might break your hip.

I soon learned that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. And he was suffering, too.

So I wonder. When your parent lives a long life, but spends the last chapter with mental illness, is that how you remember them when they’re gone? Or do you rewind to how they used to be, their true selves? From what I can gather, you remember how they were at the end, especially if it was an extended period of time. It’s human nature to recall what you experienced last. Same reason Max always chooses the last thing I say, which is why, when I list out his possible dinner choices, I put broccoli at the end.

Maybe it’s different for everyone. Maybe everything is different for everyone.

Anyways. I think there is something to be said for dying young. Not “young young,” but “barely a senior” young. I mean, not that I condone it. Or want it. All I’m saying is – dad departed this earth when he was at the top of his game. In his prime. At his best. (Except for the giant tumor in his bowel.) He is immortalized for me at 67. Too old to be cheated, but young enough to have been of sound mind. (According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, only 2 to 10 per cent of all cases of dementia start before age 65.) When I close my eyes and see my dad, he is strong and vivacious and full of life. Because, save the last two weeks of his life, that is exactly how he was for as long as I can remember.

And those last two weeks don’t count. He did not suffer long, so the heart-wrenching image of him dying has been filed away in a drawer in a cabinet in the back closet in the attic of my mind to make room for the dad that was animated and hilarious and brilliant with eyes bright blue and ever curious. He would want it that way.

Perhaps I am just trying to find something good in the sorrow. Truth is, I would give almost anything to watch his black hair turn to grey. To see that quick walk to church on Sunday mornings slow to a creaky crawl. To see what other books and poems would emerge from his freaky mind; ideas that will never see the light of day now.

If I had the choice, maybe I would even opt to see him lose his marbles. Put his pants on backwards and put his purse in the fridge. And yes, carry around a purse. A bedazzled clutch. If it meant I could have him around a little longer.

I just don’t know. Maybe that’s just selfish.

Or maybe loss is loss. Michael and I lost our dads in totally different ways, at different ages. His at 81, Alzheimers. Mine at 67, cancer. But I bet the dad-shaped hole in each of us feels about the same.

Alas, things are what they are. So, going by dad’s example, I will look at the upside of how it all went down. And be thankful for how I remember him. Like this…

See – he did have a purse.

And this.

So talented.

And this.

Rockin’ the moo moo.
Ha ha.

See, thing is, if you knew Jim Combden, you will know his marbles had already scattered. In a good way. Delightfully demented was he. So at least I got to see that, and laugh at that, and love that for 30+ years.

And if you know me, I already know what you’re thinking: The crazy apple doesn’t fall far from the crazy tree. Thank goodness for that.

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Canada’s Wankerland

So we are back from vacation and I am brimming with blog material, good and bad. Let’s start with the stuff you all want to hear about, you wonderful, sadistic assholes.

We’re at Canada’s Wonderland, that magical place with rides that make you puke and prices that make you gag. Forget the entry fee, that’s a cost I know about up front. But inside the gates, the refreshment stands await with their big cartoony signs ready to fuck you and your pocketbook right up the ass like an upside-down waffle cone. Well that’s not very refreshing at all, refreshment people.

I bought Max a custard cone for $5.25. Just a plain ol’ vanilla cone. No homemade ice cream, no marijuana sprinkles. The same cone they give you at Boyd Vincent’s Ultramar. The kind Wonder-folk gave me the option of paying with my first-born, but as I was slinging the Savage Patch Kid across the counter I realized there’d be nobody to eat the ice cream, so what was the point? I’ll keep him. And the cone. And here’s my money, you wretched bastards! I shout defiantly as I shake my fist at Wonder Mountain where the stakeholders of this fine establishment surely must dwell, watching and cackling at us poor saps through cracks in the clay. (The dude who dives off there thrice daily is probably just trying to escape the giant wallet-fucking waffle cone.)

I can appreciate a little playful transparency, so I’ve written a few new names and slogans for their treat shops and refreshment stands.

REGRET ON RYE: Shoulda Packed a Lunch, Dumbass.

GOOD MOMMY’S REFRESHMENTS: Your Kid Looks Dehydrated. For Shame. Here’s Some Water. That’ll Be One Million Dollars.

PRICEY PIZZA: Family Fun is Priceless So Fork It Over, Beyotch

SHAMELESS SAL’S: Our Prices Are Shameless And So Are Your Short Shorts

When they check your backpack at the entrance, they’re not looking for guns and knives. (Unless it’s a knife you plan to cut a kiwi with – gasp!) They’re looking for homemade sandwiches and self-bagged trail mix! God forbid we try and save a few bucks for – oh I don’t know – groceries, diapers and college funds.

This sno-cone cost me $18.

Okay that’s a lie. It cost me $7. 18 sounded better but, come on, 7 is still atrocious. It’s ice! With a couple squirts of Smurf piss! Good grief, for seven dollars I could have bought a Happy Meal and a cheeseburger on the side, or a cheap-night movie ticket and a chocolate bar, or a Duckworth Street hand-job.

Dudes – at least add a couple shots of vodka to mommy’s side of the thing. How are we parents supposed to survive in this overpriced world? I need a second job just to pay for all the ice cream that goes into this child. Turbo Ginger runs on sugar. Hmmm… Any job openings on Duckworth, I wonder? That’s disgusting. You’re disgusting.

 

 

 

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Mother Fumblers, Unite!

Dear moms, mums, mommies, mommas and mudders. Happy Mother’s Day.

Shag the roses and pedicures, I think it’s time we mothers give one another a gift: some good old-fashioned honesty.

It’s time we told the mother frickin’ truth: WE ARE ONE JUDGMENTAL BUNCH OF PRICKS.

You know it’s true. We look at other mothers and roll our eyes at their utterly ridiculous parenting choices. I know this is true because I’ve heard it, and I’ve done it. But mostly I’ve heard it. Because I’m better than that. Mostly. Starting now.

“She put THAT on her kid… to wear to CHURCH? Repent, hillbilly!”

“She takes her kid to CHURCH? Good luck explaining the dinosaurs later, cross hugger.”

“I can’t believe she lets her kid talk to her like that. I’d have the mouth smacked off it.”

And forget the parenting; how critical we are of one another’s looks! As if our bodies haven’t been through enough, as if we weren’t expected to visually satisfy every penis-toter within a ten-mile radius, we have to also endure the scrutiny of our fellow babymakers.

“Look at the mom jeans on missus. You sure she had the baby already? Looks like they left the twin behind.”

“Look at the MILF. Spends more time on her hair and nails than with her kids, clearly.”

Strict or easygoing, fat or thin, religious or hellbound, we just can’t win. None of us. And we only have ourselves to blame. We are dicks without dicks.

We are mothers, for Christ sake! The half of the species that’s supposed to be made of love and sugar and clouds and pubes of the endangered giant panda! We’re pathetic.

And our cutthroat nature just doesn’t make sense. No matter who or where we are, we share the exact same challenge every day: to keep our kids alive and happy and, hopefully, not hating us. Shouldn’t we be hugging?

Let’s face it, none of us really knows what we’re doing. Because we never really know how the kid is going to turn out! Try as you may, your heir may still end up a debaucherous, sadomasochistic, cross-dressing, Nazi shit eater. (Ok that was extreme. But it’s Mother’s Day, I can say what I want. Honey – more tea with lemon! And why are there only 3 chocolate chips in this pancake? GAWD!)

Besides, there’s more than one way to skin a kid. Or raise a cat. Whatevs.

And there is no cookie cutter mom.

There is the mom who stays home and raises her kids. And there’s the mom who goes to work to make money to save for Disney World so when the kids get tired and cranky she can stand in front of the Magic Kingdom wielding one of those big turkey legs like a mace and scream, “I paid for this fucking trip you little bastards, now suck it up or the mouse gets it!”

There is the mom who thinks In the Night Garden is a creepy acid trip of a children’s show. And there’s the mom who thinks it’s pretty darn sweet. (Mother Blogger + Iggle Piggle Forever.)

There are moms who stare in awe at their beautiful sleeping babes. And there are moms who do this:

One thousand one... One thousand two...

There are moms who had difficult birthing experiences. And there are floosy skanks who didn’t.

There are moms who sing classic lullabies to their babes, and there are moms who sing stuff like this: Sweet Child O’ Mine

There are moms who co-sleep (how stupid?), and moms who let their kids cry themselves to sleep (how cruel?). #DamnedIfYouDon’tDamnedIfYouDo

Some moms make their kids colour inside the lines. And some moms are fun.

There is the mom who has undying patience. And there is the mom who goes into the next room and counts backwards from 20 while breathing into a brown bag so she doesn’t choke a bitch.

There are moms who don’t attempt breastfeeding at all. And there are moms who have school-aged kids who wash down their half rack of ribs with a swig off the ol’ tit.

Some moms are MILFS, and some moms have moustaches for optimal stash-stroking decision-making. “Why yeeees, (stroke stroke), I think I will sign Max (stroke) up for soccer this year (stroke stroke). Stupendous.”

Bottom line: No two mothers are created equal. Some have lived charmed lives with silver spoons and lucky ducks all in a row. And some are products of their own twisted childhoods, now just doing the best they know how without crapping their own pants. We’re all just trying to make it with the tools we’ve been given. I know mine could use some sharpening. I could also use another screwdriver. (Honey, we’re out of orange juice!)

Yes, even Ghetto Mommy pushing a stroller with one hand and holding a cigarette with the other, en route to play the slots in the back corner of Mr. Jim’s Pizza. Have mercy on her too. Some of her brains fell out with her teeth. Show her some understanding and, who knows, she might just cash out earlier and buy some vegetables for supper. Compassion is a powerful thing.

Truth is, we’re all twisted up in one way or another. Human pretzels in every shape, size and colour. The irony? It’s probably your mother’s fault. But it’s her mother’s fault. And her mother’s. And so on. The original blame ran down the leg of this mother:

mharrsch / Foter

 

Beyond being inevitably screwed, we share another common bond – we are all some child’s mother. The queen of his world, for all time. Nobody else truly gets this but us.

So let’s do one another a solid, sisters. Let’s cut each other some slack. (Not a vagina joke.) Today, while you’re loving and appreciating your own mother, show some respect for other mothers too. Mothers you don’t even know. (And yet you kinda do, don’t you?) Nothing says “we’re in this together, little mama” like a high five. No words, just palm on palm slaptastic action. Do it. Up top.

We’ve had no trouble opening our legs. Now let’s see if we can do the same with our minds.

Put down the gavel, Judge Judy. We’re all just women fumbling blindly into the Great Unknown, our doe-eyed youngsters in tow, hoping and praying we deliver them to the future in one piece. Two at the most. (Max, put down that chainsaw before you break something!)

 

 

 

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Size Matters

In advertising, the word “big” often comes up. Big trucks, big taste, big service, big impact. The only things we don’t want big, it seems, are our asses and glasses.

Sure, “big” is overused. But sometimes it just works.

It certainly worked when someone gave Tom Fitzgerald his legendary moniker.

This morning, just a short time after Big Tom died of heart failure at the age of 39, this message appeared on K-Rock’s website:

“We’d like to thank Tom Fitzgerald for helping the word ‘BIG’. Before Tommy, Big was just another word. A word they’d put in front of ‘deal’ or ‘savings’. Tom quickly owned that word. He was larger than life. The irony of Tom’s passing being linked to his heart isn’t lost on anyone. He was truly full of love and he shared it with all of us.”

The funny thing about the word big is – it only works when it’s true.

With Tom, it was very true.

And I’m not talking about his physical presence, although he did have a jolly stature that just begged to be bear-hugged.

I’m talking about his personality. On the radio. And off the radio. Big Tom was Big Tom, always. I didn’t even know the guy, and yet I did. We all did. His voice was distinct. His laugh was earth-quaking. He was fun. Big fun.

Fun gets a bad rap sometimes, often clumped together with things like irresponsibility and carelessness. But Big Tom had it figured out – fun is everything. EVERYTHING. In work, in sports, in parenthood, in life. Big Tom’s laugh injected fun into our lives via our dashboard stereos every morning as we drove our lazy asses to work. His Saturdays in the Shed were a local sensation; he took music requests from the skeetiest callers in the province and treated them all with respect. Sometimes he even shacked up in the shed for days on end to raise money for charity.

Back during my single days, he hosted karaoke at the Sundance. He never failed to haul my friend Trudy up on stage for a duet. If it wasn’t Paradise By the Dashboard Lights, it was Love Shack, or Summer Lovin’. She could never resist. His love of music and lust for life were contagious.

Big Tom wasn’t pretending to be someone else to make money or get famous. He was using his God-given talents – essentially, just being himself – to do exactly what he was meant to do. If only everyone were so lucky.

Given the fun he brought to his fans, I can only imagine what a great dad he was to Sophie. He talked about her on the radio, which is why I knew her name when I saw them together a few weeks ago.

I was at McDonalds watching Max run around in the PlayPlace. I was sitting outside the big window, as many parents do. Big Tom was sitting right beside me with a woman (his ex-wife, I believe), watching Sophie climb and slide. I wasn’t listening to their conversation, but I could scarcely tune out their chatter and laughter. Maybe it was the toddler-mama sleep deprivation, but I started to think I was peering through the windshield of my car. For me, the sound of his voice was synonymous with the radio. He was mesmerizing. Hypnotic. Unforgettably so.

When a person is so full of life, it is hard to fathom that that life has ended. It’s just not possible. I mean lazy people, boring people, miserable people – sure. But not Big Tom. Surely if the Grim Reaper showed up at his door, he’d take one look at that smile and walk away, defeated. Probably even smiling. “Not so grim now, are ya?” Big Tom might say, followed by that boisterous chuckle.

I guess that’s what happens when you’re big. The more room you take up in people’s hearts and minds and morning routines, the emptier the space feels when you’re gone.

The bigger the voice, the more resounding the silence.

The shed is a lonely place today. Rest in peace, big guy. You done good.

 

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How the Eggheads Stole Easter

Ah, the glorious Easter story.

They rolled the stone away from the tomb to reveal… a giant Cadbury Crème Egg! Alleluia!

Then they rolled away the egg to reveal… the body of Jesus! Dead? Hell no. He was in a big dirty sugar coma. That’s not dried blood on his hands; that’s the remnants of a chocolate-covered marshmallow Peep.

And contrary to popular belief, he was not wrapped in the Shroud of Turin. He was wearing a big pink bunny suit.

In fact, that wasn’t even a wooden crossbeam he lugged through the streets on his shoulders last Friday; it was a jumbo Toblerone bar. Just for you. From Jesus. You’re welcome.

And His disciples… Now I know they’re usually depicted as men with beards and flowing garb, but they were actually not men at all. They were fluffy yellow chicks in gardening hats.

I’m sorry, Jesus. Thanks for the sacrifice that miraculously inspired a holiday steeped in milk chocolate. How would I get my fix (and fat ass) without you?

It’d be just heavenly if chocolate were the extent of it. But Easter has become a second Christmas. Pray tell, when did this happen?

As an advertising gal, I know how it happened: the onslaught of mega brands like Hershey, Hallmark, The Gap, Disney, Lego, Nestle, and Nintendo. Combine that with our ever-growing human desire to see, taste, experience and own everything on earth and you’ve got a billion-dollar industry built entirely around a bloody bunny. Yesterday morning, I saw the face of a jackrabbit in my grilled cheese sandwich and got $17 for it on ebay.

But when did this Easter mania happen? Well, the bunny legend dates back to 17th century Germany. But even growing up in the 1980s, I don’t remember the holiday being this big of a fuss. And take it from me – an Easter baby. Born three days after Easter Sunday, I was the icing on the Jesus Cake. And speaking of cake, my birthday often fell around Easter, so my birthday cake often looked like this:

My birthday outfits were geometric nightmares in pastel. This one even came with a set of bunny ears. (And an arsehole.)

Whatevs. All I know is – Easter was no biggie.

I guess over time the evil geniuses seeped it into our social consciousness and before we knew it “chocolate,” “clothes,” and “crap” came before Christ in our list of Easter “C” words. Out with the Prince of Peace, in with the Reese’s Pieces! C is for crock of shit all around.

Now that I have my own egg-seeking candy muncher, other moms are asking me, “What are you doing for Max for Easter?”

As eggnostic as I am, I’d be quite content if they were inquiring about our righteous resurrection rituals. I wish they were asking me which letter in the word E-A-S-T-E-R Max would be holding in the church pageant. I mean, my answer would still be “we’re doing nothing.” (I tried to reenact the crucifixion once using Mr. Potato Head but his hands and feet kept falling off while I was driving in the nails.)

But no, what they’re asking is – what am I buying Max for Easter? To which I can’t help but utter a bewildered, resounding HUH???

It kinda goes like this:

“So what are you giving Max for Easter?”

“Uhhh, I dunno. A wedgie?”

“Oh.” (You horrible mother.)

“Why – am I supposed to give him gifts for Easter?”

“Well, you don’t have to. But you know, some parents (good parents) give their kids candy eggs, chocolate bunnies…”

“Oh yeah, I could do that. They sell that stuff at the liquor store, right?”

” …and clothes, toys, bikes, video games…”

“Shit, son! The Easter Bunny really goes all out. Is this revenge for Santa sporting that fur-trimmed suit? Should I put up a tree and set snares under it?”

By now, she has already hopped away from my miserable sarcasm. I deserve it. If I were smart, I’d simply reply, “Oh you know, I’m having a egg hunt like everybody else.”

But I just can’t be anybody else.

“Oh, I’m having an egg hunt. An egg hunt so world-class, with eggs so skillfully hidden, they’ll appear on milk cartons. You’d need to give the house a colonoscopy to find them. They’ll be missing so long, authorities will issue a turquoise alert. Nancy Grace will be yakking about it for months. Bloodhounds will hang themselves, worthless and defeated.”

Which to her sounds a lot like, “You foolish, foolish twit of a woman.”

And hey, maybe it’s better to be a foolish twit of a woman than a miserable prick of a mom. I dunno. Pass the jelly beans.

Max will be eating eggs during Easter. But most of them will have sprung from a chicken’s twat. He’s not even three years old! One chocolate bunny contains enough sugar to send Turbo Ginger on a Boston Cream Marathon.

Sorry, I’m sounding crazy. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of Easter fun. But baskets brimming with clothes, toys, gadgets… Seriously, people? You’re giving your kids all this stuff… for Easter? For God sake, I just found a pine needle in my arse crack because we just had Christmas, like, five minutes ago! The house still smells like fu*ken fruitcake!

Yay, the baby Jesus is born! I think I’ll go spend an Almighty fortune on gifts.

3 months later…

Yippee, Jesus is risen from the dead! I think I’ll go crucify my credit card.

I mean I guess I get it: Christmas and Easter are about love, shown to the world by the son of God. So, to honour that greatest of gifts, we show our love by giving one another frivolous junk. Yeah, that makes sense.

Admit it, runny babbits – Easter is just another reason to overspend and overeat and overindulge your children with crap to make up for your shit-brick parenting. What would Jesus think? Tsk tsk.

Imagine how many kids out there, rustling through the backyard grass in their new Easter clothes (WTF) in search of little foil-wrapped eggs, don’t even know who Jesus is.

At least there’s hilarity in it all. Easter at the mall is a riot. Parents line up with their kids to get their snap taken with the Easter Bunny. A couple months ago, they sat on the lap of a creepy old man in a red suit and ratty beard. Now it’s time to get cozy with some sweaty guy in a rabbit suit made of pure evil. Here’s a photo of my friend’s twin boys, Will and Jack Cross. And a bunny who will haunt my dreams ’til July.

And check out this one. The sweet daughter of Mo’ Blo’ reader Roxanne, and a bunny who should have kept some of the candy for himself. I think it’s safe to say this one’s not a cottontail.

So, eggheads, what other Christian holidays can we go to hell with?

We have this dry period around summer. How about we have a Noah’s Ark Day and give our kids expensive watercraft? Every child needs a Sea-doo.

Let’s have a Mary Magdalen Day and have all the little girls go around drying people’s feet with their hair. That’d be super cute.

And we just gotta have a Jonah-And-The-Whale Day. We’ll have some dude dress up in a whale suit and make our kids sit in his mouth.

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Hey you, up there in the peanut gallery!

This mommy blogging thing is hard. Shut up – it is! [Insert big giant pouty face.]

Now I know it’s not brain surgery.

Or rocket science.

Or fishing for crab in the North Atlantic.

Or grooming unicorns.

But it does come with it’s own diaper bag of challenges.

The biggest challenge? The hatred. You know, the heckling… from the peanut gallery.

See, “mommy blogger” comes with a stigma. You know it’s true. I mean surely any woman sharing her stories about parenthood on the Internet must be pathetic and self-obsessed. She can’t possibly have a life beyond the diaper pail. Like, GAWD – does she really think the world gives a sweet shit about how sweet her kid’s shit is? Spare me the drama, freak-show mama. And, for Christ sake, get your fat ass off the computer and go fold some laundry or something.

I’ve thought all these things about mommy bloggers I’ve stumbled upon online. They’re a dime a dozen, and some of them really do make me want to throw up in my mouth. And if their blahggery is riddled with typos and poor grammar, I want to cut my head off and shit down my own neck. But hey, writing poorly is better than smoking crack well, right? Respect.

A recent report from The Onion captured perfectly the reproach for the mommy blogger:

[A first-time mother] has registered with the web service WordPress for the purpose of blogging the severely underdocumented experience of child-rearing.

“Now I’ll be able to preserve for posterity every detail of this magical time in my life and in Kaylee’s, recording every decision that affects her as well as all of my personal thoughts and reflections on the process,” Baldritch told reporters Saturday. “At long last, persons wondering what valuable insights fertility has imbued me with, or just wanting to see pictures of my precious Kaylee, will have a one-stop resource in cyberspace.”

Baldritch estimated the odds of her updating the blog twice a week for three weeks and then abandoning it at zero.

I laugh because it’s true. Many mommy bloggers are writing about how blessed they are, and how magical motherhood is. It’s annoying, and kind of a big fat lie. But hey, some readers savour that sappy drivel. So if you don’t like what you read, take your eyeballs elsewhere. To motherblogger.ca, for example. (High fives – you’re already here!) I talk about the same kind of stuff, but with way more words that start with F and rhyme with luck. And somehow, that makes me kind of totally rad.

But even when you do it differently and, dare I say, better – people still hate on you. And look out if you actually have a point of view. Bad mommy! Bad, bad mommy!

Seriously. When my Broken Vagina article hit the Huffington Post, I got so many contemptuous comments, it kept me awake at night. I tried to count sheep, but every wooly bastard would pause midway over the fence, look me straight in the eye, and say “Baaaaaad mommy, baaad baaaaaaaaaad mommy.”

It took me a couple of days to realize – this is the way it goes. A friend and coworker of mine gave me some perspective:

“Your writing didn’t suddenly become awkward, unfunny or mean-spirited just because it now reaches more people. The factor that has changed has been the volume of readers via HuffPost, and the accompanying proportion of nutjobs.”

Nutjobs… Oh, of course! From the peanut gallery! Now it all makes sense.

So I thought I’d take a moment to reply to a few of the nutjobs and naysayers – even the anonymous ones with the extra mouth where their balls should be.

To the lovely woman who said she wanted to adopt Max to save him from his cruel mother – check yourself before you wreck yourself, Mrs. Mott. Even the HuffPolice thought you went too far and deleted your comment. Too bad, because I was really pleased with my counter-reply: “You can have him for 20 bucks and a six-pack.”

To infertile Myrtle, thanks for the reminder that I should be more thankful to have been able to conceive at all. Sounds like your uterus is not the only hostile place on your person. But you’re exactly right. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to let Max out from under the stairs.

To the chick who found my K.D. Lang joke “highly offensive,” newsflash: I don’t really intend to buy pink clothes for my would-be daughter so she won’t look like K.D. Lang. And holy homos – K.D. Lang is GAY? I thought she just dressed like a dude. (Read: I love gays.)

To the commenter who said I should no longer be allowed to breed, I’ll have you know – I love my child. I love him almost as much as I love shoes, chocolate cake and green apple martinis. So there.

To the self-declared 100-pound superfreak with the tips on how to eat properly while pregnant – thank you, Calista Flockhart. Next time I get knocked up, I will be sure not to fill my body with “McDonalds and lies.” For the record, my pregnancy craving was grapefruit juice, but who would have laughed at that?

To the fella who called my article “hackneyed tripe,” I noticed that remark was, like, your 100th HuffPo comment that day. Wow. Troll much? I bet you used the term “hackneyed tripe” a bunch of times too, didn’t you? You so clever, Trollin’ Trevor.

To the handful of whack-jobs who called me cruel and cold, I’m not really going to use my new baby as a pillow. Way too lumpy.

To she who accused me of being “completely obsessed with my body image,” I’m sorry about your cankles. I make fun of my saggy nips and flabby ass, but it’s not because I’m vain; it’s because people laugh at saggy nips and flabby asses! And the merchandise is really not that manged. Don’t be hatin’, unskinny satan.

To the terrible speller who said I talk about motherhood like it’s a “game” – Really? Motherhood is not a game? Dang, all this time I thought I was playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.

And to the two mean-spirited local writers who poked fun at my “mommy blogging” – don’t be so mean, b’ys. And don’t be so dumb; if I ever see either of your names on the cover of a book, I’ll be sure to pick up a copy – and put it back down.

When I blogged about the Nicholas Winsor murder, I had nimrods coming out of the woodwork to defend their imprisoned pals. They were googling keywords around the murder and winding up at my blog, I guess. Hooray for search engine optimization? To the commenter who insisted that one of the alleged killers – a gun-toting drug-pusher, if not a killer – is a “good guy,” oh yes, I’m sure he was. But forgive me for not asking him to babysit on Saturday night.

I’ve heated the pee of a few cross huggers with my agnostic discourse. I’m pretty sure the Pope has me on the Illuminaughty list. Vicki Murphy – listed right before Sinead O’Connor, and right after Madonna, alphabetically.

Even my own mother has scolded me for my vulgar verbosity. Maybe one day I will realize she was right all along; I should be more delicate with my diction. But I can only be who I am now and know what I know now, and right now I know one thing: I am a mother, but I am not my mother.

I’ve been accused of being cruel, crass, insensitive, judgmental, anti-feminist, feminist, and misinformed. Clearly, to be a writer, especially one writing about the sacred vocation of motherhood, you need to have a really, really, really thick skin. Really thick. Like, Alan Thicke.

My sharp-tongued prose is not for everyone. And that’s okay. I choose to say things that make some people cringe. I choose to open myself up to ridicule; my cup of ridicule runneth over. If the maniacal musings of the Mother Blogger are not your cup of tea, put that teacup back down, yo. Move along to the next tea party. It’s all good. It’s nobody’s fault. Some things just don’t fit.

But in putting myself out there, come hell or high water, I also get a whole lot of love. Many of you keep coming back for more and that’s why I keep on keepin’ on. And truth be told,  sometimes the haters are the first ones to return because I’ve stirred up something in them they dare not admit. Muahahahaha… [witch cackling fades out]

Here’s the deal. If you’re caught up in the hyperbole and profanity of my momglish, if it seems all I do is cuss my life and vent my frustrations about my irate toddler, please know: my son is my life. This is my therapy and your entertainment, if you’ll have me, as I search for meaning in the mayhem of motherhood. (The therapy and the entertainment are both FREE, I might add.) And I trust that when Max is old enough to read alladis, he’ll see the value in it too. Through all the bat-shit crazy, he will see, without a doubt, that I loved him so. Loved him so much, I documented all our zany adventures together for all time. And bravely took the peanuts in the face all the while.

Charleton Heston once said to Lawrence Olivier, “I’ve finally learned to ignore the bad reviews.”

“Fine,” Olivier replied, “now learn to ignore the good ones.”

 

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Love, in Spite of Ourselves.

For many new parents, the romance goes the way of the placenta. Not me and my husband though, no sir. We’ve managed to keep the fire burning through the pandemonium of parenthood. For example, my husband shows his affections by slapping my ass and swinging his weenie around like a tassle on a showgirl’s tit.

Wow. Let me go slip into something a little more flannel.

When we were dating, he’d often tell me how funny and smart and beautiful I was. Now he warms the cockles of my heart with things like, “What’s for supper?” and “Is there clothes in the dryer?”

Oh yeah baby. Take it off. Take it all off.

Men! Why do they stop showering us with affection? Like most smart-ass husbands, Andrew would counter this question with another question: “Why do women stop riding us into the sunset like a cowgirl with a cause?”

Touché.

Time to get a clue, sucka-foo! After all these years, do you still not realize that flattery and fornication are attached at the hip? To quote the infinitely wise Antoine Dodson, “You are so dumb. You are really dumb. For real.”

Now, being a writer and mad as a hatter, I spend quite a deal of time writing at home, retreating into my own private Wonderland and ignoring Andrew for hours on end. A couple days ago, realizing I had been pecking away at the keyboard for an eternity and a half, I turned to him and said, “If I ever get a book published (you know, about motherhood), I will dedicate it to you for all your patience and support.” I was trying to start something sweet. You know, throw a compliment his way, maybe get one back, followed by some cuddling and afternoon delight. His tender, loving response? “The book wouldn’t exist without me anyway, because I’m the one who got you pregnant with my meat cannon.”

Give it to me baby.

I can’t complain. I’ve been laughing at the “meat cannon” for about 48 hours. Got me right in the funny boner. Never underestimate the disrobing power of a good chuckle.

And today, though I received no flowers or candy, I did discover this work of heart on the chalkboard in the kitchen.

Nothing but big ol’ hearts dancing in my eyes.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all you crazy couples out there, fully clothed or otherwise. Here’s a song for ya.

 

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A Firefly in a Jar.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

The words of that famous blogger… What was his name?… Ah yes, William Shakespeare.

This was also the closing line of a letter written by my father more than 11 years ago. Long before Cancer became a household name at Chez Combden.

Dad didn’t live by the sword but taught by it for 30 years, swinging a blunt wooden blade around the classroom as he brought Hamlet and MacBeth to life for young, adolescent minds. He quoted the bard more than you can shake a sword at, so it’s no surprise he did so in this letter. But oh, the bittersweet irony of it all…

Mom was leaving to go to Edmonton to visit my brother Glenn, his wife Peggy, and their brand new bundle of blue. Dad wasn’t going, but in mom’s carry-on he sent along a piece of himself: a five-page letter. Not a letter for Glenn or Peggy. A letter for Jack. His first grandchild – a boy – the wee one who would carry on the rare Combden name and the red-hot Barr’d Islands blood.

I didn’t know about the letter until Glenn read it at the funeral home, just a couple days after dad’s death on January 21st, 2010. Two years ago today.

Penned nearly a decade earlier, some of the words were hauntingly prophetic.

October 5th, 2000

Dear Grandson Jack Alexander:

This letter, the first of your life, will come as a complete surprise to you; your mom and dad might be surprised too. You may not pay much attention when your mom reads this to you. You may not understand every word; your language is unique. You will be too busy turning over, sleeping, dreaming of a future not yet defined.

When you are old enough, dad and mom will explain why this message came so early in life. They might attribute the writing to your Grandfather Combden’s multi-dimensional personality or a touch of insanity which has no explanation. Pick your choice, Jack.

I’m extremely elated you are a boy with potential to carry on the Combden name. If you were a girl, I’d be just as joyous. Your two grandmothers might be a tiny bit envious, but your two grandfathers smile with enormous delight and look forward to when you will battle your brother for your father’s golf clubs, car, hockey stick and CDs; we’d roll with laughter if your sister marked the wall with mom’s lipstick, blew powder around the bathroom, flushed a toothbrush, or poured shampoo into the tub. Of course, you can do these things in a year or so. A good grandson is a mischievous grandson.

Right now, it’s your world, Jack. Your show, your stage. You should learn Shakespeare early. “All the world’s a stage.” First lesson.

I heard and saw your first “stage,” with all the gifts. You were not very interested. Your father was hyper. (Just a joke.) Is it true you have red hair, stand 20” tall without socks, and weighed nearly 9 pounds? What a boy! What a grandson! It won’t be long before you are taller than your father, well above your mother. (ha)

Is it true you are drinking your mother’s milk? That’s a good idea. This high quality milk is always the right temperature, costs nothing, the cat can’t get at it, it comes in cute containers, and the supply never dries up. Unlike oil wells.

Before I continue, I want to tell you a little about your grandfather. I’m retired from teaching, still conducts the occasional service, picks berries in season, writes poetry, keeps a journal, and plays golf. Your father has yet to defeat your grandfather (ha.) Also, I’m an active Lion, helps citizens with EI and pension problems. I am considered a philosopher, thinker, walker, rabbit hunter and actor. I get a quarter of moose each year. I have a bottle for you, when your teeth arrive; you’ll like moose. Grandma bottles good moose. P.S. I am probably the most sensible of your relatives, although it might take you a few years to come to a full appreciation of Pop Combden.

Time goes so fast, Jack, my son. Before school is out, you’ll be walking, poking fingers into everything, pulling papers, books, ornaments off tables and low shelves. Watch the steps to the basement; tell dad to put a gate at the top.

Dad told me you attended an Oilers game. You probably slept through the game. I guess the game put half the patrons to sleep.

You’ll be making your first trip to NFLD at Christmas. How nice! I’m waiting to hold you, bounce you, roll, tickle and wrestle. What fun! I will have to be very careful, because your grandfather dropped your dad when he was your age, (I think), but no ill effects were recorded. Did you notice? (ha)

I heard the North Pole is melting. Santa might have to travel by canoe or bike. But Jack Alexander, he always comes, and this year he has extra toys. Someday, he’ll bring you golf clubs, bike, girlfriend, and other things. A sister? But no gift will be greater than yourself, and it is not even Christmas.

Your grandmother Combden will be delivering this letter. Special delivery, Jack. Next fall, Pop will be up. We will go for a short walk, watch the geese flying over, take some pictures, look at picture books (no women), play peek-a-boo, hide and seek, play with your toys. Pop loves toys. I’ll bring a special toy for you, plus my own toys.

You’re getting sleepy now, so I’ll bring this to an end. Pop feels sleepy himself. Must be that Grandfather Feeling.

Keep growing, rolling, turning, drinking, shouting, sleeping. Pop is aware of your mom’s hibernation policy when on holidays (ha). But little Jack can sleep as long as he wishes, and if anyone wakes you up, Pop will throw snowballs at them.

Love and kisses from your Pop Combden

xxxooo

P.S. “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” – Romeo and Juliet. Second lesson. Goodnight, Jack.

I shake off that feeling of beautiful sadness and appreciate this letter for what it is: a paper portal into how wonderfully, unforgettably crazy he was. When the memory of him starts to fade — the inevitable desaturation of time — we need only reach for this letter and there he is, his voice plain as day in that beloved scrappy handwriting. As writer Chuck Palahniuk says, “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” Mission accomplished, dear old dad. Immortality is yours. And I’m not just talking about this letter.

I sit here among heaps of poetry and prose and sermons written on everything from cue cards and stationary to notebooks and discarded envelopes. A chronological rainbow of paper – from yellowed typewriter onion-skin to sheets of lily white. It took me these last two years just to organize it all. (Coming this spring: Sonnets & Scribblers: The Poetry of Jim Combden.)

And here’s his book. Fogo Island Boy was published in 2009, just six months before his own final chapter was through. I remember him pecking madly away at the computer, determined to finish his story, knowing his diagnosis, hopeful for a cure but taking no chances.

He did it, and he basked in the glory of his realized dream – a book launch at Chapters, a couple sweet paychecks, and some considerable bragging that warranted a few loving eyerolls.

Dad and my son, Max, grandson #3, at his book launch. October 2009

Then kaboom – The End. No more books would be written. No more silly poems. No more letters to future grandsons. A sobering reminder to make your dreams come true before you stop waking up from them.

But it’s the strangest thing for me – to see Fogo Island Boy on the shelf at local bookstores. The book he wrote, but no dad to high five. That’s my dad’s book! My dad – he’s the Fogo Island Boy! I want to shout it out to people all around me, maybe hug someone. He did it! He really did it! I pull the book out from the shelf and reposition it with its cover facing out, smile skyward and walk away, content. His book is still here. That means he is still here.

“The more we write, the less we die.” – Brian Kessler

Dad’s words, nestled inside an ocean-blue cover, are sitting on my coffee table. I reckon that’s the next best thing to the man himself sitting on my couch. I needn’t go farther than my own living room to hear his voice.

The day after he died, Ted Blades of CBC Radio’s On The Go aired a tribute to “Jim Combden from Badger’s Quay” who so often called in to the radio program with thoughtful and intelligent comments on the political happenings of the day. The way he spoke, the words he chose; he was like an “Old Testament Prophet,” Blades said. Dad was always fighting for what he thought was right and just. Always standing up for the little guy – rural Newfoundland. He always had something to say. And he said it fearlessly and well. (Occasionally, it got him in hot water. At a Liberal rally, he called Danny Williams a “fuehrer.” The remark made headlines and even inspired a skit on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.)

“A voice has been stilled,” Blades began. Then, he preempted a reel of dad’s comments with a statement that hits me smack dab in the heart every time: “The voice we’d come to love, and one of the calls that made On The Go richer by their very presence…” Hear full podcast here.

A voice has indeed been stilled. There will be no more new words. But what has already been said — and that’s a heck of a lot — is immortal: in his book, in his poetry, in his radio commentaries. His unique voice is forever captured, like a firefly in a jar, quietly shining its light in the darkness.

Dad with Jack and Sam Combden, grandsons #1 and 2.

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Dear Pope: Time for Some Tweaks?

How do you prevent a mommy blogger from ringing in the new year in head-to-toe flannel, scraping chocolate out of her spacebar with a label from a bottle of cheap wine while she updates her facebook status to: The first person to bring me another bottle of Shiraz wins a big, fat prize wrapped in flannel.

Invite her to a wedding!

BAM.

What a time. But why in the holy hell did they choose that reading in church? Whyyyyyy?

Allow me to quote from the Book of Sirach, the first reading during the wedding ceremony:

“Happy is the husband of a good wife; the number of his days will be doubled. A loyal wife brings joy to her husband, and he will complete his years in peace. A good wife is a great blessing; she will be granted among the blessings of the man who fears the Lord. Whether rich or poor, his heart is content, and at all times his face is cheerful.

A wife’s charm delights her husband, and her skill puts flesh on his bones. A silent wife is a gift from the Lord, and nothing is so precious as her self-discipline. A modest wife adds charm to charm, and no scales can weigh the value of her chastity. Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord, so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home. Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand, so is a beautiful face on a stately figure. Like golden pillars on silver bases, so are her shapely legs and steadfast feet.”

One second. I need to go flip the flapjacks, then iron my husband’s shirts, then “add charm to charm,” then hurl. All the while remaining cheerfully silent and glowing like a “shining lamp.” What. The. H-E-double-hockey-sticks?!

I’m not sure if the passage was read verbatim. I was too busy picking my jaw off the floor, pinching myself, and mentally slapping my husband who kept looking at me with that smug “Get in the kitchen and make me some pie” look.

The thoughts kept pinballing around in my head:

Is this really happening?

Did she really just say that?

Is this 1954?

Am I alive right now?

Is the Pope a He-Man Woman Hater?

What’s next – a pro-slavery poem?

Someone check my ears for wax. There must be a full box of crayons in there because what I’m hearing just can’t be right.

I’m no feminist, trust me. Sometimes I even objectify myself. (See photo above. Dress bought at Trollops.) But what in the name of Christ (that’s not a curse – I mean it literally) is this verbiage doing within a 100-yard radius of a Christian establishment?

So let me get this straight… the Catholic Church thinks that, to be a good wife, I need to be a good housekeeper? Someone interpret that differently for me. Please. Be my guest. Tell me I’m reading it all wrong. (After the comments on my last post, I’m sure you won’t disappoint.) I will gladly accept dyslexia in exchange for clarity that does not involve me wearing an apron around my “stately figure” in my “well-ordered home.”

I wonder if the Pope has a little diagram of a “good wife” pinned to his fridge (full of wine and unleavened bread?) – of a shapely (but modest!) woman holding a feather duster, bending over (but not too far!) to wipe the crud off her husband’s big, long briefcase that contains his big, long list of manly achievements.

Seriously. Is this holy scripture or last month’s copy of Hustler? But hey, this gibber-jabber was written a couple thousand years ago. I can’t blame the Church today for something written in another time.

But I can tsk-tsk today’s Church for offering up that passage as an appropriate reading for a marriage! Dudes – there are so many other passages, why include this one in the list? Leave that one in the dark ages from whence it came. Keep it locked up in the closet with the rest of the secrets, whatevs. We women are trying to get ahead here. Do a girl a solid, would ya?

Thankfully, the Protestants do not accept the scripture of Sirach. High five, my Anglican brothers and sisters! And an additional low five for allowing women to preach.

I must sign off now and sharpen my “skills,” to put meat on my husband’s bones. Holy hilarious. This must be the passage my mother read every night before bed. Keep a clean house and food on the table and you’re top notch. (She must have fallen off to sleep before the “silent wife” part. Love you mom!))

Even the priest who officiated made amendments for this dinosaur of an excerpt. After the reading, he chuckled and said something like, “Of course, all these things can be applied to the husband as well.” I breathed a sigh of relief. At least he kinda-sorta acknowledged the hogwashiness of the thing.

With all due respect, Mr. Pope, it’s time for a few updates. Or kick that passage to the curb altogether. The Bible is, like, a gazillion pages long; surely you have enough other sacred stuff to draw from. Maybe this un-wisdom was applicable through to the 1950s, but come on – times have changed a little, don’t you think? The leader of the free world is black. GASP! We’ve even opened our minds to electing (and reelecting) douchebags here in Canada.

Come on Benny, I know you’re not that out of touch. You don’t deny that the Holocaust did indeed happen (unlike your buddy rebel bishop Williamson who believes there were no gas chambers – and also that women should not wear pants.) Good on ya. Now… why can’t women be priests? Are we ladies not capable of being divine? Is our divinity restricted to our partridgeberry pie and how we fold those blasted sheets with the elastic at the corners? Let us in. Not me, but anyone else with girl parts who wants in – why not? Oh, and while you’re at it, maybe you could reword the whole thing about homosexuality being a “disorder.” That’s just silly.

I think most priests and churchgoers would agree – congregations (and, consequently, contributions to the collection plate) are dwindling as communities age. The Church is a dying institution, as more and more young people drift further and further away from conventional religion. So helloooooo – if you are trying to appeal to a younger, modern demographic, this is so not the way to do it. (I think you need the guidance of a good marketing company – call me.)

When I heard that reading during the wedding ceremony, I thought to myself – Thank God (I guess) that I was married by the mayor because this backwards baloney is just bananas. I’m sure there are other teachings and readings that I could embrace, and many that I already do, but the endorsement of this Sirach poppycock is enough to turn me toward voodoo instead; clearly, the Church and I are not a good fit.

Go ahead. Put me on the Illuminaughty List. Until there’s an update, I will continue to worship the fairies in the woods. Word.

And to all ye getting married in the Catholic Church, for the love of God and all his creatures great and small and male and female, stick with Corinthians; faith, hope and love never go out of style.

 

 

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