Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Despite the recent problems I've been having sleeping, I managed to get up early this morning so that I could go get ashes before work. I altered my morning commute and took the B Train to 50th Street. I walked through Rockefeller Center to get to St. Patrick's Cathedral as Katie Couric was interviewing someone about what the colors in your dreams mean. While I was waiting in line at St. Patrick's a man passed me a photograph that a women in his congregation took, you could see "Lucifer" in the bottom corner of the photo. "Look at his evil face and horns" read the description. It did kind of look like the devil, but I didn't unerstand what the greater meaning was.

I was not really paying attention to the different styles of the three preists giving ashes and I just stepped forward to the next available one. He pressed his thumb deep into the ashes, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return," he said in heavily accented English. I saw black stars. Outside, I caught sight of my reflection in a car window. I have a giant black smear on my face. Really, it looks like someone detonated a small bomb on my forehead. Of course, Ash Wednesday is not really about the aesthetics, so I didn't sweat it.

When I stepped into my office, I felt certain that FrauFoxtrot at least would say something with her very direct German style. As soon as she saw me she said, "Wow! They really got you good!". Thanks, but it's a Holy Day of Obligation, it's not like I just got Punk'd. "I saw a girl with a big cross on her forehead, but yours is even bigger! In Germany, they just give you a little thumbprint, but wow you really got it!". What could I say?

Five minutes later the WiseGuy walked by my desk. "You have something on your face," he said. I just stared at him. "Is it a holiday?" he asked.

"Yes, it's Ash Wednesday."

"Okay, but you have a giant cross on your forehead. I've never seen someone with so much ash on their face. I thought they just gave you the thumb."

"No, they make a cross."

"Yeah, but still, I'm telling you, I've lived quite a life and I've never seen ashes like that before."

I sat at my desk and continued to type away. Every time I moved my head in the slightest, showers of ash fell into my vision. My fingertips were black. I tried to remember if I had changed a printer toner cartridge recently, then I remembered, it's the ash! It's everywhere. I'm like a one woman Pompeii!

Fifteen minutes later, NewGuy walked by. Unlike all my other colleagues, NewGuy grew up Catholic. "Ash Wednesday," he said on the way to the kitchen to nuke his coffee, "They really nailed you." Finally, I had to laugh.

Last week, I was collecting my receipts for my Tax Return. Usually, I'm really good at keeping receipts, but I couldn't find any for the charitable contributions I made this year, so I was trying to run through them in my head. After a quick tally, I realized that I gave less than $100 to charity last year. For a person who lives in relative comfort (albeit a comfort largely financed by personal debt), this is really pathetic. I want to do better this year and I think Lent is a good time to start. Does anyone have any reputable charities they support? Right now, the bulk of my donations go to City Harvest and a homeless shelter in Providence.


Jamie Carin said...

By the way...Ash Wednesday is NOT a holy day of obligation.

Beta said...

Your post made me realize that I have no idea where the closest catholic church is to our apartment. So I'm google-mapping it to find one.

Also, do you know that your posts vary in text size? It's usually every other post and it seems like it switches between 10pt and 12pt, but I'm not 100% sure. Is this on purpose?

AJWP said...

You and I are Sisters of The Ash! I had the same experience a couple years ago--the priest at Trinity got me good. What made it even funnier was that I worked at a teen center, so all day the kids were like, "Yo, you got shit on your head."

As far as charities are concerned, I really like RAINN ( It's the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, and they connect hotline callers to their local rape crisis centers. I've been a volunteer sexual assault counselor since 2000, so I can vouch for RAINN.

Cupcake said...

Would some one care to remember all the Holy Days of Obligation? I can never remember them.

UPDATE: I just returned from lunch, a time when I was able to look at my forehead and look at other people walking around. I said to WiseGuy, "I just saw my forehead. I look like I've been marked for death."

"It's unbelievable," he said. "I just saw 4oo people walking around on the street, I haven't seen anything like what you have going on."

Seriously, I look like I just lost Shirley Jackson's Lottery.

Super Skater said...

As far as charities go, I like New York Cares. They organize tons of flexible, short-term, long-term volunteer projects all over the 5 boroughs, including painting murals at schools (which I did a few months ago-- it was a great experience) and coat drives during the winter. If you want to check it out, their website is

Stacey said...

I too love NYCares I also donate to (a grassroots politcal/social organization), (to prevent gun violence) and also I donate all my gently used office clothes to

Jamie Carin said...

Holy Days in the US are:
All Sundays, Christmas, Easter, Feast of the Presentation (Jan 1), All Saints Day, Ascension, Assumption, Immaculate Conception

timmy said...

So tell me if this is worthy of chills:

Last night, my 5 year old nephew Michael woke up in the middle of the night. This is not particularly unusual. That he was not crying or wet from the waste down, was a bit odd.

My sister (his mother) hears him talking and goes into his room and sees him walking around in his pj's. She asks "Everything alright, Michael?" He responds matter- of-factly, "Yeah." Thinking 'no harm, no foul' Sis tucks the little guy back into bed and heads off to sleep.

Fast-forward to breakfast this morning. While munching on his cheerios Michael relates to Sis that he had seen his "Dad's dad" last night and begins to describe his encounter. Sis immediately takes notice. She asks how Michael knew it was his paternal grandfather, and Michael responds by describing him to her. Still playing along, Sis asks what "Dad's Dad" was doing. Michael says simply "he was making sure everything was ok"

OK. on the face, it sounds like a pretty normal story from a 5 year old. But let me fill in a couple of blanks:

1. "Dad's Dad" died over 15 years before Michael was born.

2. In an attempt to stave off the 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust' conversation, Michael has never seen a single picture of his grandfather nor is he spoken of in any degree.

Yet, Michael described "Dad's Dad" right down to the distinctive part in his hair, and his exacting attention to the locks on the windows.

Couple this with the timing of the encounter - Midnight on Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday (when the Saints are said to come 'marching in') - and you have yourself something that might just make you think twice about the meaning of this time of year.