Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sofa of DEATH

Teal green leather sofa: $69.99
Handling fee for sofa: $20.00
Gas for my brother's truck: $90.00
Cost of ticket if anyone got our license plate number: unknown
Tips for three deserving maintenance men: $60.00
Many endangered lives: priceless!

It was traumatic, but it happened a year ago, so I think I can bring myself to tell this story now.

When Mery and I got an apartment together, our living room was completely bare-- neither of us had furniture for it. I decided we had to have a sofa, and went looking for a nice used one. My mom (whose father owned a furniture store when she was young) urged me to buy something brand new and high quality, with the idea that I'd have it for years to come. But I had my own ideas, and chose a big leather sofa being auctioned on eBay by a charity for only $70.

I won the auction. My dear mom met me the next morning and together we picked up my brother's truck, then headed to the warehouse where the sofa and a dresser I'd also bought were waiting for me. I was all smug about paying so little for them. People are suckers, I thought. They don't really know how to buy stuff.

I played with a friendly dog while the warehouse staff loaded everything up. "Do these cushions come off or are they sewn on?" was Mom's question to them about the couch. She had had a bad experience once with a moving truck and flying pillows. But she soon determined that these cushions were sewn on. The men tied everything down with ropes and we took off. Mom took the freeway but drove slowly. It was forty-five minutes back to my apartment. Towards the end of the drive someone honked at us and pointed to the back of our truck. "Can you see what's going on back there?" asked Mom. I thought she was fretting too much. "They just want you to get over another lane 'cause you're going so slow," said I.

We reached the apartment and I hopped out and checked the furniture. It seemed okay... just a gap in the sofa I didn't remember seeing before... one of the cushions was missing.

Pause while this sank in. My lovely green leather sofa, transported with such effort, was now worthless. Even I don't want a sofa with a missing cushion! I looked closer and saw that though the top cushions were indeed sewn on, the bottom ones were merely held by velcro, so one of them had ripped right off while we were cruising on the freeway. I wondered who had been endangered by the flying cushion.

"That's why you buy new!" Mom burst out. "Then they deliver it for you, for free!" But God bless her, that was all she said in the way of I told you so.

We set about moving the worthless hunk of junk off the truck, but it was quite heavy and I got a finger pinched and said, "Let's just rest a minute." As we rested I thought about where the missing cushion might be. "Mom, how about if one of us takes your car back on the freeway to look for the cushion while one of us guards the stuff?" I knew she wouldn't want us both to go looking for the cushion, since she'd said we couldn't possibly leave furniture unguarded in a truck on the mean streets of Lakewood. But she'd had a change of heart:

"Oh, just leave it here!" said Mom. "If we're lucky someone will steal it!"

So we both took off in Mom's car to retrace our steps back to where we'd been honked at. It was a long drive that took us near the ocean and then up the 405 again, keeping our eyes on the road. There was no sign of a recent traffic accident; that was comforting. I prayed to St. Anthony that we'd find the cushion if it was God's will, but even as I prayed I felt myself becoming detached from worldly goods. Sometimes they're more trouble than they're worth. :)

A lumpy something loomed ahead at the side of the freeway. It didn't look promising, but as we drew nearer I saw that its underside was teal green. Unbelievably, we'd found the cushion! (Thank you, St. Anthony!) How it migrated to the side of the freeway when we'd been driving two lanes over, I don't know. I'm a bit afraid to imagine, actually. And I'm even more afraid to imagine how all the tire marks on the cushion got there. Running over something on the freeway would scare the heck out of me; I can just imagine cars swerving and drivers screaming. I really really hope no one was hurt!

I got out of the car and fetched my precious cushion. Though its underside was treadmarked, the upper side actually wasn't that bad. "It'll come right off with leather cleaner," said Mom.

I felt rather cheerful driving back home. Not only was my sofa no longer worthless, but it was satisfying just to have found the cushion again against all odds, and apparently without killing anyone on the freeway!

I didn't know that worse was to come.

We pulled up in front of my brother's truck. The furniture was still on it, untouched. (Ever see that Seinfeld episode where Jerry can't get the smell out of his car, and finally in desperation he leaves it parked and open on the street with keys in the ignition, but he can't even get a thief to drive it away? That's my furniture.) We pondered what to do now. This stuff was heavy; how to get it inside the apartment complex and upstairs to my place? My older brother had offered his muscle, but he couldn't be there for several more hours, and Mom and I wanted to have a go before then.

Mom urged me to asked someone in the rental office if they at least had a dolly we could borrow. As it turned out, not only did Maintenance have a dolly, but three of them also offered to help us move the stuff. (Why is my mom right all the time?) They got the dresser up our apartment stairs and through the door, and the same thing with its matching nightstand. Then they hauled the sofa up to the top of the stairs. And it wouldn't go through the door.

It was a longer and wider sofa than most, and there was little room to maneuver in the narrow stairwell. The men tried turning it this way and that, lowering one end and then the other, carrying on a conversation the whole time in rapid Spanish. No dice; the sofa couldn't be turned around the corner enough to fit. Suddenly the men all lifted it and carried it back down to the sidewalk below our second-story balcony. Were they giving up? No, but one of them disappeared. I wasn't sure what they were planning, but since they were working so hard I thought the least I could do was not interfere.

The man returned with a long rope and some ladders. Uh-oh... I thought. They placed the ladders against our balcony, then got some towels to pad the rope as they tied it around the sofa. One of them scampered upstairs, threw the rope over the big beam above the balcony, and proceeded to haul on the rope while the two men below perched precariously on the ladders and pushed the sofa up. It reached the level of the balcony, but still had to get over the balcony railing, and there wasn't much space between the railing and the overhanging roof for it to fit through. One of the ladder men went upstairs to help, and the remaining man below swayed on his dismayingly flexible ladder, trying to hold the sofa up. It would have been so easy for him to fall ten feet, or to have the sofa fall on him. I stood to the side almost paralyzed with fear, thinking that no $70 stick of furniture was worth this risk, praying repeated Hail Marys in a near panic. I think it may have been one of the most frightening moments of my life.

Somehow, though, the three of them stuffed the huge sofa over the railing, through the balcony door and into the living room, all without breaking their necks! (Thank you, Blessed Mother!) We thanked the men profusely and insisted they accept tips, though I felt pretty inadequate about it: "Here's some money; thanks for risking your life." In no time they were gone, carrying the rope and ladders with them, and I was left staring at my teal green leather sofa and thinking, "Now how the heck am I ever going to get this thing out again?"

It was a question that haunted me for a year. Oh, the sofa was nice to have during that time. It kept the living room from looking bare, and from time to time someone took a nap on it, and friends sat on it and laughed at my stories about it, and it was great for parties-- here's a picture of one of our good times on the death sofa:

But all the while the sofa's ultimate fate tormented me. What was I going to do with the thing?

The inevitable day came when Mery said she had something to tell me: "I'm going to the convent!" Time to move out. I made arrangements to move most of my stuff and donate the rest, but what could be done with a giant sofa that wouldn't fit through the door? Moving it could cost me more than its $70 price, and I was not eager for a repeat of the balcony scene. Perhaps I'd just abandon it and slink away...

Then my friend Christie said she'd like to have it. She's going to be the nurse manager of a crisis pregnancy center that will soon be upgraded to a clinic with ultrasound machine and all. The place needed furniture, and the teal leather sofa was pretty nice and would look good there. You'd never know its middle cushion got run over on the freeway if you weren't told. :)

I tried to warn Christie about the little matter of the sofa not fitting through the door, but she was optimistic and blithely rounded up a truck and a father and two sons from church to help with the moving. They all arrived one warm day last week and marched up to my apartment to take stock of the situation. It turned out that Gary, the father, had worked for his father's moving business when he was younger. He and his sons picked up the sofa and tried to get it out, but it couldn't turn the corner. Someone thought of dismounting the front door from its hinges to give us another inch or two of space, but that proved to be a bit difficult. So the men started maneuvering the sofa again, strategizing all the while: "Turn it this way so it goes around the corner... we'll have to push it so it's almost upright... can you get the end down without running into that railing?..." And suddenly the sofa was standing upright in the stairwell outside the door. It fit after all! They'd gotten it through!

After that I quite giddily helped to move the rest of the stuff Christie was taking, and we loaded it on the truck. "Is the pregnancy center on a second story too?" asked Nathan, Gary's older son, who studies sacred music in college. "No, it's street level," said Christie. "Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!" replied Nathan in Gregorian chant. And they drove off in the truck to take the furniture to its new home.

So that was a very happy ending to a stressful story. Given the sofa's new situation, I may even need to start calling it the sofa of LIFE instead. :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

There are no calories in broken cookie pieces

Because the calories leak out. This is a well-known fact. But I'll bet you were unaware of the many other amazing calorie loopholes in our diets today! For example, did you know that if a friend makes some dessert, and you eat it so her feelings won't be hurt, the calories never count against you? And if you eat something quickly and furtively while on the go, the calories forget to show up! And then there's the loophole I exploited just last evening: if you eat food in order not to let it go to waste, it won't go to waist.

What happened was this: all the huge, gloriously red-gold peaches on my parents' tree suddenly turned ripe in one weekend. They dropped off the tree and had to be harvested, but I couldn't keep up with them all. There was nothing for it but to cut them up and make peach crisp to take in to work today. And then of course I ate half of it myself. But in this economy of ours I simply couldn't think of wasting food. :)

That, incidentally, is why I've also been eating zucchini pancakes all weekend. A co-worker has a tree and gifted me with a huge zucchini on Friday.

Well, I know where I get all this from. My mom in her pre-skinny days carefully followed the calorie-discount rules. She'd take a whole unopened package of cookies in her hands and say, "Now, I'll only eat the ones that are broken." Then she'd SLAM the package down on the counter.

Shoe shopping orgy!

I had all sorts of unpacking and moving stuff to do last weekend, but I dropped it all to drive with my mom to the Sketchers outlet store where my baby brother is manager. On my birthday Mom had given me $100 to spend there. What with the low outlet store prices, and the sale they were having, and various employees giving us their huge discounts, spending all that money meant buying five pairs of shoes! I got three pairs of sandals, some very light running shoes, and some Mary Janes with biker soles. I then went right home, tossed out six pairs of dirty worn-out shoes, and replaced them with the new stuff. The wedge sandals I'm wearing right now have about a 2 3/4 inch heel, but they're so cushy I almost want to go running in them. It makes me happy. :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A handy vocation discernment flow chart

For Linda and anyone else who hasn't seen it yet. :) I've emailed this thing all over, but I guess I've never posted it on my blog before. It's from this post at Disputations, and I've no wish to steal credit from the genius who created it, but since it no longer seems to show up at its original home, I'm reposting it here:

I trust this makes everything clear. See you at the nunnery, girls.

Oh, and Linda, you can tell your menfolk that the encyclical that was recommended to me (the one whose title they were trying to translate today even though I couldn't quite remember what the title was!) is "Haurietis Aquas", which means "You will draw waters". It's about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It's by Pope Pius XII, so I got that much right. :)

Seminarian Quan

I have a friend named Quan, a member of my parish, though I didn't meet him until we went on the same pilgrimage to Mexico two years ago. Quan's a seminarian at the North American College in Rome. He takes classes at the Angelicum, but I'm not jealous or anything. He had eight classes this last semester-- crazy!

Quan just came back to Southern California for the summer, so a group of us went out to eat with him after Mass today and we heard how he's doing. He seems to love Rome. It's full of history; saints' relics down every alleyway. Says he's not learning Italian much since all his classes are in English and all the Italians speak it. He used to go to all the papal events but now he doesn't always have time because they take so long. He helped to serve Mass for the Pope once on some feast day-- it was broadcast on EWTN. I'm not jealous or anything. He's also been on a few short trips with the other seminarians, to Assisi for example. He gave us all Rosaries blessed by the Pope. :)

The North American College is wonderful, he reports. It's very orthodox. Better yet, from the top down, everyone there is focused first and foremost on deepening their relationship with God, developing their life of prayer and worship. This was unfortunately not true of the seminary he was at before, but I'm very glad he was able to transfer!

Quan said that all the seminarians have to take on some kind of apostolic work, so he volunteered for the job he wanted most. They trained him carefully and gave him a test on it which he passed. He'll get to start when he gets back to Rome. Know what the job is? To be a guide taking people down below the altar of St. Peter's Basilica to see the bones of St. Peter! How cool is that? He handled the bones himself during his training!

But I'm not jealous or anything.

Friday, June 19, 2009

If you remember the 70's, tell me...

...did gangs actually dress in costume like this?

And the "High Hats"-- no way will I believe any gang affected that dress. Least scary gang ever. How would they not get laughed right out of town?

I think I'll perm my hair to mushroom shape, bat my eyes seductively, and utter the immortal line, "We know about the Warriors. They're a heavy outfit!"

I've always liked cheesy stuff. :)

More photos of recent events

This is my roommate Mery on June 8, becoming a postulant at Corpus Christi Monastery. I'm told she was smiling like that all through the ceremony.

The week before, a group of us had visited her monastery and had dinner with the extern sister.

We were all in town to visit Fr. John on the 25th anniversary of his ordination. Formerly a priest at our parish (St. Peter Chanel in Hawaiian Gardens), he's now at St. Stephen the First Martyr in Sacramento, CA. He's the priest on the left; Fr. McNeely is on the right, and they're surrounded by all the folks who made the seven-hour drive to be at the celebration.

We tried to force Fr. John to admit that he loves St. Peter Chanel more than his new parish, but he remarked that he gets so many visits from former parishioners that he's hardly had a chance to miss it!

(The first thing I thought when I saw this photo was, "Boy, I'm white!" As a redhead my choice is white or pink.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A few more pictures from the Nashville Dominicans

(Most of my pictures from the retreat are linked here.)

Some of us retreatants played basketball with some of the sisters, and then snapped a picture which settles once and for all the age-old question, "Can Rachel look intimidating if she tries?" The answer is no. But by pointing my right elbow at the lens I can make it look oddly enlarged.

I love the light in this one. We were touring one of the sisters' high school campuses.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Unfortunately, Rachel...

Have you seen this meme? Google "unfortunately [your name here]" in quotes and see what you get. :) My results:

Unfortunately, Rachel can't be left alone and the social services needed for her to live an "adult life" are unavailable.

Unfortunately, Rachel’s little plan withers and almost dies when she discovers that what she thought was going to be the man of her dreams is actually an old classmate she herself left heartbroken several years before.

Unfortunately, Rachel’s knack for getting into trouble attracts a different kind of attention, but her way of viewing the world, full of hilarious personal theories, allows her to rationalize the unfairness of life.

Unfortunately, Rachel chose to ignore precautions. The choice ultimately led to her murder

Unfortunately, Rachel has yet to contact me for our first date.

Unfortunately, Rachel was never claimed by anyone.

Unfortunately, Rachel was crushed to death that day.

Unfortunately, Rachel's vigilante lifestyle and independent nature clash with Rodney's deep devotion and desire to marry.

Unfortunately, Rachel is wearing my grandmother's curtains.

Unfortunately, Rachel had already ordered the ladder to be removed and I could do nothing but cling to the crown of the tree.

Unfortunately, Rachel becomes dangerously infatuated with Professor Starkman, and decides that she'll be his teaching assistant, no matter what the cost.

Unfortunately, Rachel was downright unattractive and proved to be distracting to look at.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I just get finer with age

You can read in my previous post some of what I was up to yesterday, but I was also celebrating my 31st birthday. :) Thank you very much, by the way, to all of you who sent cards or emailed or Facebooked me! I felt loved.

My family and I had tea at the tea house in Huntington Gardens-- best tea I've ever had, by the way, because they have lots of different delicious sandwiches and it's all-you-can-eat! Huntington was a rich guy a century ago who amassed lots of art and built a gorgeous estate to house it in, so we toured that. At tea I was given many gifts, as follows:

From my mom, a balloon. Not a new balloon, but the same one she gave to my older brother for his birthday three months ago. She spent fifty-nine cents to have it refilled with helium at Party City.

From my older brother, a little plastic Spock that says "Live long and prosper," when you press a button. He got it as a prize at Burger King.

From my younger brother, a lollipop he picked up at the bank.

Also from my younger brother, the bubbles that were a favor at the wedding for which he was best man last weekend.

I love my family. They give me such great stuff! :)

I did also get weightier presents from my parents. There was an automatic toothbrush, to which I'm already addicted. It was so tiring to have to move my hand so much while brushing my teeth manually-- can I get an Amen? :) I also got thirty-one dollars in cash, because my mom has kept up all the excellent customs established when we kids were kids: stockings at Christmas, baskets for Easter, and on our birthdays, as many dollars as we are years old. And I got money to buy some sandals at the Sketchers store my younger brother manages-- I'm looking forward to that.

Losing the roomie to a good cause

I wanted to write about all the fun stuff that went down last weekend, but I was too busy this week and now there's something more momentous to blog. My roommate Mery (the older person in this picture) went off today to be a nun! It's been in the works for a long time (in fact I visited the place with her more than a year ago) and finally two months ago everything was ready and she was told she could enter Corpus Christi Monastery as a postulant today, June 8.

For weeks she worked on getting rid of all her stuff (quite a job for an American) and she sent off the last of it with friends last night in the final packing blitz. Six of us feasted on Indonesian food until midnight in our much emptier apartment, and I finally got to bed around 1 AM. At four I was up again, so I had three hours' sleep. Mery had two. We both got to church for the 4:30 AM Mass that Fr. Ed and Fr. Larry said for Mery. There were about twenty people there to pray for her and see her off. After the Mass we milled about and said goodbye, and then Mery took off with Yoka and Annette, two friends who were hopefully more well-rested than she. Their plan was to drive the seven hours to the monastery, leave Mery there, hand over her car to her sister, and fly home. It's currently about 4:30 PM, so I suppose Mery's dressed in a postulant jumper by now. :)

Last night Mery and I were both feeling the weirdness of it all. Walking through our apartment complex to the familiar little two-bedroom place that's been home for a year, we knew that if all goes well, she'll never return to it or to this area at all. Once in the convent, she might leave for a few summers of classes at the order's house of studies in Washington, D.C., since the Dominicans are big on study and even cloistered nuns might go out for that. But otherwise the nuns don't leave unless they have to-- medical necessity, or a dying relative, or jury duty (I wonder if they ever get on a trial?)

There's no knowing sometimes if you're really called to be a lifelong nun till you've tried it. One girl in our church left for a convent not long ago and was back within a month or two. I know people who were apparently led to enter somewhere just for a season and leave before final vows. That doesn't necessarily mean a mistake was made; it might have been God's will for them to experience religious life to better form them for whatever else lay ahead. Maria von Trapp is a nice example of that (true story and not just a movie!) But obviously Mery's hoping this is a permanent move and she'll never have to leave. It's a six-month postulancy and a two-year novitiate, and eight years total before perpetual vows. If you're the praying type, please pray for her discernment.

Last weekend a big group of us friends went to San Francisco for an ordination and Sacramento for the 25th aniversary of an ordination, so while we were in the area we stopped by Mery's convent in Menlo Park. Here she is chatting with Sister Mary Assumpta, the new prioress:

Suddenly she found herself being measured for a postulant uniform by the extern sister.

Louise met us there as well. I don't think she realizes she's about to get measured too. :) She did the aspirancy with Mery back in November 2007 and she's going to enter as a postulant herself in two months. The convent has been a bit top-heavy, with lots of older sisters, but now they're getting some younger vocations.

I don't know if I've quite realized yet that I won't be seeing Mery around here any more. But I do plan to head up to Menlo Park and visit her when I can, and I can write to her. No email for a few years, though; the internet is curtailed at least during the novitiate. I'm actually happy about that, because I love the art of old-school snail mail, and I haven't really found anyone who's interested in it since email hit the big time. :)

Here's a picture of our visit a year ago. Louise met us then, too; she and Mery are on the left. We were eating breakfast with some of the nuns, who gathered on the cloister side of the big visiting parlor. One distinguishing feature of Corpus Christi Monastery is that the nuns' meals are very good. Mery was hoping to make it up there by lunchtime today, and who could blame her? :)

Well, that's such a worldly note to end the post on that I shall piously add: please pray for Mery and Louise. :)