Monday, March 21, 2011

Loaves and Pizzas, A Homily

Years ago, two decades or more, my parish priest used a little anecdote in one of his homilies. It was the story of a married couple. The husband always made his sandwiches and then left the ends of the loaf of bread for his wife to use for hers. For years, she felt bitter and annoyed by this habit, hurt that he left her the crummy ends of bread and took the other, better, fresher pieces for himself. One day she finally confronted him on it. His sincere reply: "The ends are my favorite pieces, the best ones, so I leave them so you can enjoy them."

Sweet, right? Even though one can't help wishing the couple had cleared up their slice preferences many years earlier.
I can't remember what larger lesson about that week's readings the anecdote was meant to illustrate or how the story tied into God's love, Biblical insights, etc. All the same, the anecdote has remained with me for twenty-five years or so.
Hubby and I had a similar moment of revelation over the weekend.
We took the kids to a pizza place they call "Choo Choo" for lunch on Saturday. The kids ordered chicken and fries, as you do at awesome Chicago pizza places. Hubby and I easily settled on sharing a family size salad and a medium thin crust pizza. I happily ate several of the perimeter pieces -- you know, the best ones, with the crispy crust handle. I eventually felt guilty for eating so many of these "good" pieces and decided to grab one from the middle. Hubby says, not unkindly, "Aww, you're taking one of my good middle pieces."
"The good middle pieces?"
"Yes, those are my favorite."
"But I only eat the middle pieces because I feel guilty about hogging so many perimeter pieces."
"I only eat the end pieces to get to the middle pieces."
Seems like we could clarified this point a decade ago, but I have to say, it feels so nice to have that definitively settled and so satisfying to know that our thin crust pizza preferences are complementary.
If I were to craft a homily inspired by this incident and the loaf of bread anecdote, here are the noteworthy lessons and reminders:
Different strokes for different folks. My favorite may not be your favorite. Our own tastes and preferences seem so clear and true that it's easy to forget that others don't share them. I'm glad to be reminded of that.
Guilt? What a waste. I make more choices motivated by guilt than I care to admit. I'm not saying don't regret mistakes or don't try to make things better when you're at fault. I am saying that I am stupid for feeling guilty over things like which pieces of pizza I might possibly be enjoying too many of or how I leave the green jelly beans in the bag for the next sucker.
Communicate. Unlike the couple in the sandwich anecdote, the slice preference thing hasn't been eating away at me for years or causing any resentment. However, such little things can become nagging sources of annoyance and ill will for no good reason. Always wise to speak up if something--the way someone squeezes the toothpaste or loads the dishwasher or leaves one single glass on the most inconvenient spot near the kitchen sink--is getting to you.
Love involves sacrifices, large and small, but it does not have to be defined by them. I sometimes fall into patterns of thinking in which in order to be happy, I think I need to "earn" that happiness by giving something up/away or denying myself something I'd like . . . even as small as an end piece of pizza. Some acts of sacrifices and suffering are meaningful. Some are pointless. Wise to pause and consider the difference.
Again, our pizza epiphany is less powerful than the slice of bread story because, thankfully, it involved no hard feelings. I'm pleased though, that our moment of insight brought back that anecdote from years ago and gave me something to chew on (pun intended) that is relevant to my life today.
Any "little things" that have become big things in your relationships? Any moments of clarity achieved? Are you a perimeter person for thin-crust pizza? Do you squeeze the toothpaste from the middle? Do you like the ends of a loaf of bread? Really?! What do you do with green jelly beans? Please share in the comments.

*Note that there were two perimeter pieces left! That's our Little Bit, looking so serious and reflective.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Madness

Last year, I wrote about my March Gladness. This year, it's a bit more March Madness, though this post is not about college basketball (which I happen to really like -- Go Irish! Go Muskies!).
This post is about why I haven't written in almost a month (longest break ever in history of NTB). Loyal readers know that we tried to sell our house last year. We just put it back on the market again last week and the past month or so has involved a massive effort to clean, declutter, and generally spiff up our house. I do most of that kind of work in the evening after the kids go to bed because not much of significance can be done (without being undone) while they are awake. Hubby's work and travel schedule heated up there for awhile, complicating things. My mom came in town to help me make the final push, and I am pleased to say the house is in good shape. It all seems and is petty in light of recent world events, but I have been fairly close to completely unraveling on several occasions the past few weeks and am finally feeling more like myself.
We left behind a clean and finally-ready-to-show house last Thursday morning and drove to the airport in the darkness with a gas tank on "E" and slightly behind schedule. Despite a stop to fill the tank with a few gallons less than a mile from the airport, we made it to Florida to visit Grandma and Grandpa.
We spent the last week watching Bub learn to swim underwater and without his vest, Little Bit test how far he could venture into the ocean without getting yelled at, and Sweet P try her hand at eating sand.
Also, I turned 36.
All in all, life is good. I have at least 36 unwritten posts swimming about in my brain and hope to find and make the time in the coming evenings to share them with you.
For now, I'm getting my blogging feet wet again by passing along two Irish blessings that came my way today and sharing a few of my favorite smiles.

May God grant you always . . .
A sunbeam to warm you,
a moonbeam to charm you,
a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you.
Laughter to cheer you.
Faithful friends near you . . .

May your troubles be less
And your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness walk through your door.
My wish for this next year of my life is for more laughter, more time spent with faithful friends, and even more happiness walking through my door.
I'd also love it if a buyer for our house walked through my door and welcome any prayers and positive vibes toward that cause.
What have you been doing this March? More glad than mad, I hope. Please share in the comments.

To all my blogging buddies: I've missed making my rounds and checking in on you all. I'll be stopping by soon, I promise!

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