Toilet Paper and Lincoln


So. It’s been a week, right?

I was supposed to be at a writer’s conference this weekend but we had to cancel it, due to coronavirus concerns. Just in a span of a few days, we’ve gone from “not too bad” all the way to closing down conferences, concerts, and now an entire continent.

And though we can practice “safe distancing” and stringent sanitizing, when all is said and done, we just have to ride out the COVID-19 storm. And hope that we have enough toilet paper (Will that be in the history books, do you think? Americans stocked up on toilet paper during the outbreak of coronavirus and caused a deficit in that industry that lasted for years. Even as late as 2035, storage units were filled to capacity with toilet paper.)

But on a more serious note, please consider a little extra checking on those who live alone. And a few more prayers wouldn’t hurt, either.

Meanwhile, I’m reminded of that old joke. “But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” Dark humor, I know, but it also ties in with my post today over at The Muffin: “Even Lincoln Needed Likes.”

abraham-lincoln-administration-adult-art-290150It’s a pretty interesting tidbit (from those wacky collections at the Library of Congress) that might take your mind off the news. And since we all might be hunkered down for a while, hoarding toilet paper and eating a lot of peanut butter, reading interesting tidbits might be a good option.

Take care of yourselves, friends! And as Saint Thomas More wrote to his daughter, “Pray for me as I will for thee, that we may merrily meet in heaven.” (But not for a long while yet!)

Pondering Ash Wednesday

altar-arches-architecture-art-632628In a world that’s beyond fast-paced, where news is instant and everyone is hyper-connected, when change is not just daily but moment-by-moment, I crave constancy. There’s a certain peace that comes with routine, with the assurance that some things will not change, not at their core, at least. I think that’s why I like Ash Wednesday so much.

From when I was just a little kid in a scratchy school uniform to this evening when I go to Mass, I know what’s going to happen. The familiar scent of the ashes, the church decked in purple, the same dirge-like music…it’s all there, just the same. And it’s comforting, these rituals; makes me feel like, despite all the crises in the church, there is hope and strength in these traditions that bind us together in faith and love.

So I like my Catholic traditions, even if some of ’em have fallen by the wayside over the years. Like giving up something for Lent. Holy Sister Mary Joseph, I used to give up something every year, even before I knew why. Mostly, it was chocolate back then, which made Easter morning baskets all the sweeter.

But as the years progressed, I’ve quit most of the easy vices to give up, or I don’t indulge enough to make giving ’em up meaningful. Now I’m left with the tougher ones on that Seven Deadly Sins list. Like pride, avarice, envy, sloth… for cryin’ out loud, how do you give up pride? And if I gave up sloth, does that mean I’d have to give up my naps? I LOVE MY NAPS.

I pondered this problem in my latest post over at The Muffin in “Giving Up to Get More.”And though it’s about how we can give up certain bad habits to become better writers, they’re bad habits that affect us in more ways than writing. They’re the kind of bad habits that keep us from becoming the best version of ourselves, whether that’s a writer or a mom or a salesperson.

So I’m giving up my Debbie Downer habit this Lent (according to Youngest Junior Hall, I start first thing in the morning by reading out all the bad news from the paper. I also read the wacky news and Dear Abby but fine, I’ll keep the latest on the coronavirus to myself).

I was about to say it’s not going to be easy but see? There’s that negativism cropping up already and I haven’t even gotten my ashes yet. Pray for me, y’all, it’s going to be a long Lent!


The Queen of Sheba and Paul Harvey

512px-Sir_Edward_John_Poynter_-_The_visit_of_the_Queen_of_Sheba_to_King_Solomon_-_Google_Art_ProjectThis morning, I heard the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon and I probably should have been paying attention to the point of this Old Testament story, but all I could think about was how long it had been since I’d heard the expression “Queen of Sheba.”

When I was a kid, if someone were putting on airs, my mother might say, “She walked in like she was the Queen of Sheba.” And if I were putting on airs, she’d address me as “Madame Queen.” As in, “Oh, Madame Queen wants steak.”

I’m not sure where Madame Queen came from, but my mother used that expression till she died. Not so for “the Queen of Sheba”. That’s an expression that’s just sort of died out, though I suspect that if I said, “Who are you? The Queen of Sheba?” the Junior Halls would know exactly what I meant (even if they weren’t sure from whence the expression had come).

Anyway, that led me to thinking about Paul Harvey and my Muffin post today: The Rest of the (Revamp) Story.

Oh my word, I loved Paul Harvey and his Rest of the Story; the radio station where I worked carried the program around 5 or 5:30 but the feed came through at 3:00 and I–or my co-worker, George–had to be there to tape it. So we’d take a little afternoon break to listen as the feed came down, grab a Coke and have a smoke (I haven’t smoked in decades but I sometimes still smell a cigarette and think of old Paul Harvey and George). Invariably, when Paul would give the twist, we’d look at each other like, “WHAT?” We rarely saw the twist coming and that shock, that surprise, was so much fun.

I suspect old Paul (or his son, who wrote that program) influence my writing quite a bit; there is nothing I like better than a good, unexpected twist to a story. Which is not to say that my Muffin post today is completely unexpected; I’ve talked about all my thinking already so you won’t really get a true “Rest of the Story.” But it makes me smile, using that program format. It makes me a little sad, too, to think Rest of the Story is gone and expressions are dying out as well.

Though if you do read myMuffin post, I go on a bit in a somewhat la-ti-da manner and I wouldn’t blame you one bit if you thought, “Who does Cathy think she is? The Queen of Sheba?”

Image from Art Gallery of New South Wales [Public domain]