Just a reminder that the blog has moved to http://www.janelebak.com/blog. If you want to keep seeing posts from me, you can either click the subscribe button on any of the posts there or you can use the RSS feed.
I’ve already got one post up there (and I’ve moved all the rest of them over, along with your comments) and I’d love to hear from you. The first post is “Tiny Cold Feet,” and I’m sure your life won’t be complete unless you read it. Or not. But you’ll never know if you don’t go check it out, will you?
Yay! It’s a new short ebook about Father Jay, from about a year before The Boys Upstairs. It’s free, and it’s free forever.
You can find the ebook at Smashwords and Omnilit or direct from the publisher. (I’d say do it that way, just to have fun — the website will try to charge you one cent, and then you use the coupon code FATHERJAY and voila, the one cent disappears. I love computers. Really, I do.)
If you aren’t sure why you’d want to buy The Boys Upstairs while it’s still priced at a dollar, this short story is an introduction to Father Jay and his world at Saint Gus. Enjoy!
I attended Uncle Mayhem‘s funeral about three weeks ago. At my aunt’s house before we went to the church, I’d been there about ten minutes before I noticed Kiddo1 looking shocked. I pulled him aside and said, “This is how Italian funerals work. We laugh.”
There’s the initial greeting, of course, the condolences and the comfort. And then within five minutes, you have the first outrageous story involving the deceased, and after that you’re pretty much off to the races. That’s how it is in my family, and because that’s all I ever knew, I’d assumed that’s just how funerals go.
Kiddo1, who assumed for some reason that a funeral would be filled with sad, crying people, had no idea what to make of the dissonance. But in my family, that’s how we mourn. We share. We laugh together. If we can laugh at something, we can make it through.
My father tells me Irish funerals are the same. My Patient Husband, on the other hand, says no, in his family that kind of thing never happens.
“Your relatives are more colorful,” he says. “There aren’t family tall tales like that.”
I said, “Come on,” and told a story about Uncle Mayhem and my grandfather that involved unpasteurized milk and a real-life dose of farm animals. “No,” my Patient Husband said. “My mother would be mortified if someone told a story like that about her at her wake, something crazy and a little embarrassing.”
Until that moment, I hadn’t thought about that story as even remotely embarrassing. Uncle Mayhem was on the receiving end of the laughter, but if he’d been there, he’d have taken over telling the story from my aunt and probably hammed it up even more. Embarrassed? No, he’d have laughed loudly and probably slapped the table and then followed it up with an even funnier story.
Well, that’s what I want. If I show up in ghostly form at my own wake, I want to hear laughter. I want to hear funny stories spanning back decades, key moments that exemplify what we all loved about each other, maybe a little exaggeration here and there, but overall a sense that we all truly lived our lives as who we are.
No punches pulled, no pretending I lived a life of dignity and reservation. Life is story. So talk about the time I went all New-Yorker on that employee who mistreated my kid or how I turned in the gas station manager engaged in insurance fraud. Laugh about the time I bit into kim chee without knowing what it was and saw actual sparks.
If I were there, I’d be laughing right along with you. I’d probably tell you some detail you forgot, and that would lead to another story still.
Oops — in the flurry around the rosary, I totally forgot to post this here. My publisher marked down the Boys Upstairs ebook to only $.99 through December 2nd!
Even if you already own it, you can still gift an ebook to someone else — my understanding is that Amazon will let you buy it at the discounted price now and set the delivery date on the book for Christmas if that’s what you want. It’s an easy Christmas gift, and really, I’ll love you for it. 🙂
A jaded cop struggles to save three homeless children a few nights before Christmas, with temperatures below zero and dropping. But the only one he can ask for help is his estranged brother, a crippled priest.
It’s home. It’s been identified, and it’s with its proper owner. As it turns out, that rosary took a path it never should have taken to that donation table, but now it’s home and it’s being properly appreciated by the one who should have kept it all along.
Apparently it came from a pilgrimage. I don’t know anything more about it.
But it’s home again in time for Thanksgiving. Isn’t that a warm fuzzy?
If it was a surprise to me that my $7-free-with-donation rosary was worth hundreds of dollars, then it was even a bigger surprise when the parish priest wrote back to me.
“He’ll tell you to keep it,” my Patient Husband had said, I think more than a little surprised I was worried about the donor of the heirloom rosary. But when the parish priest wrote back, he surprised me by saying yes, please return it so he could track down the donor and let them know what I’d discovered.
So, no more dilemma about what to do with it.
I brought it right over. (And it was kind of funny because the priest said “if you don’t mind,” whereas if I’d minded, I would have been well within my rights to just keep my discovery to myself.)
The other surprise to me was how reluctant I was to let it go, hence the urgency to get it back right away.
I read over everyone’s comments on yesterday’s post, and a number of you said God wanted me to have it and I should keep it and at least I’d put it to good use. But I don’t think that’s why I found it. I think I found it because God knew I’d recognize it for what it was, and that way it could make its way back to the person who shouldn’t have let it go in the first place.
I have a rosary from my grandmother. My Patient Husband has one from his grandfather. Yes, they’re both plastic, and yes mine is falling apart, but they’re meaningful because in a way they’re not just chains of beads but also chains of people, chains of family. Prayers don’t count more when they’re on an expensive counting device; heaven knows I’ve prayed often enough on my ten fingers, and God gave me those for free. But we attach importance to the love we felt at the hands of others. Remember all those knitting tools my friend gave me last year, how I revisited my grandmother’s crochet hooks? How they’re like touching the past?
It needed to go home. It needed to be loved and treasured and with someone who had a connection to its past. I’d have loved it, but not like that.
Now, if Father G. comes back to me with a statement that the donor doesn’t want it or that the donor wants me to have it, of course I’d take it back and love it and use it. But for now, I like to think it’s going home.
I sold books at my parish craft fair this weekend, which is kind of exciting but not the most exciting thing. You see, when you sell at a craft fair, you’re there before they open, and you can browse.
This was my table, by the way:
I ended up at Le Table Of Donated Junk and immediately my eyes alighted on a pink notebook. Not my color, but I snatched it up because guess what? Handmade paper. I know what those sell for.
Me: How much is this?
Them: I dunno. A dollar?
I explained to them that they could get a lot more for that. They told me to buy it instead. I said, “Why don’t you just mark it up, and if no one buys it, I’ll come back and buy it later?” They insisted, so I bought it (for $3, I think) and then Kiddo#2 promptly laid claim to it and I will never write in that hand-made notebook. C’est la guerre.
I wandered over to another table, which was the religious leftovers, things people had given Father G. because he’s a priest and Great Grandma had this religious stuff no one wanted after she died (but which they had little qualms about throwing out.) There was a long row of rosaries, and one immediately caught my eye.
I love heavy rosaries. I want a rosary that feels like you’re holding it, not those flimsy plastic things. This one? I think it weighs ten pounds. Well, not really, but the beads look like marble and it’s about three feet long. I shoved five bucks in the donation jar and walked off with a marble rosary. I came back later and left two more because I felt like maybe they deserved it.
Hah. This is God saying, “Jane, you have no clue.”
I’m not one for expensive rosaries. Mom and I used to joke all the time, “Oh yeah, God listens to you more if you pray on an expensive rosary,” the same way we used to joke that you got more graces if you pushed to the front of the Communion line. I get it: nice things are nice, but it always seemed at odds to me to pray about humility and charity on what’s effectively a counting device that cost as much as a month’s groceries. (I’ve felt the same about Bibles that cost a hundred bucks — really? My $5 paperback is the same Word of God.) So most of my rosaries have been of the 40-cent variety, but I have a couple of nice ones that are about $15 to $20.
On Sunday night while we were praying the rosary together, I noticed the rosary was wire-wrapped. Hmm. Moreover, it was wire-wrapped the way handmade rosaries are. Oh. And it’s really, really silvery. Oh dear. I’ve seen those before.
If you google “handmade wire-wrapped rosaries,” you’ll find a lot of interesting things.
You’ll find, for example, that some artisans figure hey, as long as they’re taking hours upon hours to hand-wrap fifty-nine beads, they’re going to use sterling silver wire and semiprecious stones, and then they’ll call them herilooms and charge hundreds of dollars. I ended up at Robert’s Heriloom Rosaries website and discovered how his rosaries, which do cost in that range, look just like the one on the desk beside me. Check out this beauty.
The one in my hands here is a little work of art. It’s the same style as the above and it’s the same length. It may be worth hundreds of dollars. How can I keep that? How can I keep it for only $7?
I wrote to the parish priest. I asked if he wants it back. I asked if he wants to track down the original donors and find out if they really meant to give away something meant to be an heirloom. He’s probably going to say no. He’s probably not going to say to pay what it’s worth, something I’d never have done in the first place.
I went to the craft fair to sell books, and I came home with art.
If you’ve been hearing “All About That Bass” lately, (and honestly, who hasn’t? I even heard it on W-Old-Phartz) then you know that Mama told Meaghan Trainor not to worry about her size.
Then I heard the song, “You Can’t Hurry Love,” in which Phil Collins informed us that Mama told him you just have to wait. She said love don’t come easy.
I said to Kiddo2, “Apparently Mama knows a lot of things.”
She thought about it a moment. “Mama told me when I was just hatched, act like a superstar.”
(Weird Al, “Perform This Way.”)
I said, “I wonder if “Born This Way” begins with more wisdom from Mama.” I looked it up, and apparently Mama told her when she was young, we’re all born superstars.
So we put our minds to it, and we’ve got two more. “My mama told me, she said, ‘Son, please beware. There’s this thing called love, and it’s everywhere.” (It’s too late to turn back now.) And another song I half-remember where Mama told me there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this, my Mama said.)
Does Mama have any other sung wisdom we’ve missed? And what about Dad? Why doesn’t Dad get his words of wisdom repeated in song?
About two months ago, my children convinced me to get a Betta fish. I researched bettas, conducted a field trip to the fish store, came home to survey the house, and then began several trips back and forth to properly outfit our home for a fish. This was what we ended up with:
We named him Bubbles because bettas put up little joybubbles when they’re contented, and we were optimistic. Eventually we picked up two amano shrimp as well, and everything was great. (That setup changed, too. Eventually we got rid of the brick and moved in a smaller rock and a napkin ring that functions as a tunnel, plus added a filter.)
One day, I looked at the tank, and Bubbles was gone. He’s good at hiding, but there’s not much space to hide in a two-gallon tank. I removed all the rocks. I disassembled the filter. We scoured the floor in case he’d jumped out (although the lid was still on) and moved the furniture, and we couldn’t find him. Everyone assured me Bubbles had jumped, had flopped quite a distance, and then fallen prey to one of the cats (even though one cat had been asleep in another room all morning, and the other seldom comes downstairs.)
That night, the second cat sat on my chest, purring, and I wondered how I could love her if she’d eaten someone else I loved. I mean, it’s a bit of a conundrum. It’s not as if the cat meant to hurt me or hurt the fish.
The boys wanted a new fish, so we picked up a blue and red betta who eventually picked up the name Señor Pez. That was about two weeks ago. Señor Pez enjoys his home and loves exploring all the little nooks and caves made by the rocks.
Last Sunday, I cleaned the tank, and when I took out the decorative lake snail shell, I found Bubbles.
I can’t describe what happened. I won’t. I think I exclaimed, “Oh, God, Bubbles!” and Kiddo3 came running up to me, but I didn’t want him to see. I had to clean Bubbles out of the tank. I pulled out the stupid snail shell where he’d trapped himself and drowned, and I gave it a burial in the front yard in the same spot where we buried our first unfortunate shrimp.
For two days, whenever I closed my eyes, I could see that moment when I found Bubbles. And by the next morning, the remaining two shrimp had cleaned the rest of the tank. How can you love someone who ate someone else you love?
Señor Pez is looking a little ragged-ended now. I’m treating him in case it’s fin rot, but I’m surprised by how attached I am to these silly fish. And Bubbles. I miss Bubbles. I feel so bad about what happened to him, and that I didn’t even know.