Friday, March 7, 2014

Fish Sticks: A Totally (Un)Inspirational Story of Lenten Sacrifice

A few nights ago, the hubs brought home a bag of frozen fish sticks, per my grocery list request.

I watched him carry it into the kitchen.  “What the hell is that?” I asked.

He looked at me.  “Fish sticks.”

I blinked.  “Are you being a smartass?”

A frustrated look shaded his face as he thrust the grocery list under my nose.  “It says fish sticks RIGHT HERE.  Look.  FISH STICKS,” he said loudly as he pointed to where the list did, indeed, say “fish sticks.”

“Well, yeah,” I said as I studied the bag he held, frozen fish sticks bulging out at all angles, “but that…that has got to weigh at least 150 pounds.  We’re feeding 2 small boys, not the local middle school.  Sweet Jesus, how many fish had to die to fill a bag as big as my stovetop?”

The hubs acted as though he was thinking.  “Oh, probably one.  That stuff is mostly filler.”

I shrugged.  “I’ll put them away.”

My husband watched me through narrowed eyes as I used both hands and went into a squat in order to get a better hoist on picking up the bag of fish sticks.  “I think you’re being a bit dramatic,” he sighed, turning to unload the rest of the groceries.

When I went directly to Facebook to rib the hubs and his choice of fish sticks in bulk, a few of my Catholic friends got all excited, as only Catholics do at the prospect of meatless Fridays and different variations of fish.

“He’s stocking up for Lent!” one friend commented.

“You’re all prepared for Lent!” another commented.

“Read previous comments before adding duplicates, a-holes,” I commented.

I noticed later that I had one less Facebook friend than I’d started out with that day.  Hm.  Weird.

Anyway, my Lenten meat sacrifice doesn’t involve fish sticks; I’m all about swapping out my ground beef on Fridays for salmon and other varieties of sushi rolls. 

It’s all about sacrifice, my peeps.  Taking one for the God Squad.

All of the Lent talk on my Facebook page reminded me of the time I went to visit my older sister soon after she’d given birth to her son.  I was feeling particularly responsible that day; I was kind of in the mood to play a grown-up, more responsible version of my normally (back then) drunken self.  So, instead of grabbing a burger to feed my hangover that day, I stopped at a trendy little sandwich shop and picked us both up a grilled chicken salad with light ranch on the side, mindful that she’d be watching her weight after having the baby.

When I arrived at her house, however, and used a flicky-wrist motion to turn down the opportunity to hold the nephew I’d just met so that I could instead dig into my grilled chicken salad, my older sister gasped.

“Oh my gosh, SHAY!  What the hell are you doing?!”

I paused, a salad leaf hanging out of my mouth.  “What?” I asked, confused.

She sighed loudly, the destruction of my soul obviously weighing heavily on her heart.  “It’s Friday, and it’s LENT, Shay.  You can’t eat meat!”

I rolled my eyes. “When’s the last time you went to Mass?” I asked.  I was pretty sure that it had been a long time, and I knew that when she finally did venture back into a pew, I would not be going along for the ride.  I was afraid the church would burst into a flaming, fiery mass upon her entrance—that’s how shocked I imagined God would be.

She paused, thinking.  “Like 3 years ago?”  Then she got that face on her that she gets when she’s ready to act all smart.  It’s a really convincing face.  In fact, I believed absolutely everything she told me when she made that face until she was 18 years old and told what will forever be known as The Great Homecoming Queen Lie. 

She’d told me that she’d just missed the cutoff for making Homecoming Court her senior year.  She’d been number 11 when they’d tallied the votes.

However, when I mentioned that in passing to some of my friends, thinking I was all cool because I was the younger sister of the girl who almost made Homecoming Court by being number 11 when the votes were tallied, they looked at me like I was crazy.

One of them—a student council member—had piped up.  “Um, no she wasn’t.  Not even close.  I helped count the votes.”

Oh, but damn, how I love that story.

Anyway, my older sister pulled her smart face and said, “But it doesn’t matter, because missing Mass isn’t a mortal sin.”

“It is,” I replied, salting my chicken salad before taking another bite.  “It is.  If you believe in that sort of thing.”

My older sister covered her ears, trying to un-hear my words.  “The blasphemy!” she screamed shrilly.

After she’d calmed down a bit, I tried a different approach.  “Listen, I’m kind of a cherry-picker when it comes to religion.  I’m a very spiritual person, but I don’t necessarily believe in all of the things they tell us to believe in.  But, just to ease your troubled mind, I did say my Rosary on the way here.”

I really had.  I can’t help it; I’m a Rosary-prayer, my peeps.

“Do you ever pray your Rosary?” I asked.

My sister glared at me, knowing full well what I was trying to do.  “No,” she said, challenging me.  She knew I’d be scared; she's got these crazy eyes, and when she makes them all bulgy, you never know what she's going to do.  So she knew I wouldn’t push the issue—too far.

“Do you even know how to pray a Rosary?” I asked her.

My sister shrugged.  “Like a Glory Be?”

“Is that your answer?  Like a Glory Be?”

“Yeah,” my sister said, all defensive.  “That’s my answer.  I’m sure there’s a Glory Be in there somewhere…”

“Sure there is.  In fact, there are several.  But that’s not the prayer you start with.  Do you know what you start with?  The prayer that you say while you’re holding the cross?”

My sister didn’t even skip a beat.  “Fruit of the vine, work of human hands—"

“Holy shit,” I said.

“Peace be with you,” she replied.

“And also with you,” I said, effectively giving up the fight as I reached out to shake her hand.  (With as many years of Catholic school as we have under our belts, one does not do the “Peace be with you”  routine without ending it in a handshake—grilled chicken salads or no grilled chicken salads.)

Satisfied that she’d won, my older sister had to solidify her victory with one more remark:  “I hope that chicken tastes good, because you just traded your soul for it.  I'm pretty sure you’re going to Hell now.”

I shrugged.  “I’d already been planning on it. Dad told me I was going there right after I got my tattoo.  Not to mention all of the pre-marital sex I had during my slut years…and yesterday.  But that’d be more extra-marital sex, right?”

That’s when my hubs had piped up.  “I’m right here, dude.  RIGHT HERE.”

My sister and I simultaneously swiveled our heads in his direction, shocked.  “Where the hell did you come from?” I asked.  “Have you been here the whole time?”

Yes,” my husband answered, exasperated.  When I just looked at him, confused, he sighed.  “I rode here with you?”

My sister and I looked at each other and shrugged.  Who knew?

He really ought to make a little bit more noise every now and then.  Or maybe he had been and we just hadn’t noticed as we’d been in the midst of our heated debate.

Ah, well.  The chicken was good, anyway.


  1. Love it. You just reminded me it was Lent which I've chosen to keep forgetting though my Mom mentioned going to Mass on Wed to get her ashes. At least she's stopped asking me if I get them. I used to enjoy pointing out she had some schmootz on her head in a joke that never got old. For me.

    1. After 36 years of it (because I did it when I was a baby, too), it doesn't get old for me, either!

  2. I LOVE the conversations you have with your sister! You responded to the fish sticks the same way I would have, and I LMAO at your Hubs comment about the huge bag probably being made fom only one fish!

    1. He was pretty proud of himself for that one. He's a pretty funny guy--when I shut up long enough to let him talk. :)

  3. Ha ha! Once again, could totally picture that scene, felt I was there and didn't want to leave!

  4. Can you come over and explain Lent to my kids? They want to know why fast food restaurants (that we just drive by, I swear) make a big deal about serving fish in March and April. There is no way my explanation would be as good as yours. Bring your sister too!

    1. Just tell them they're going to HELL if they eat meat on a Friday during Lent. That's the explanation I've found works best for most young children. KIDDING!! :)

  5. Happy belated Lent! Is that a thing to say? I have no clue. Other than spending a multitude of nights at my Catholic's friend's house (where I had to say the Rosary) and spending the weekend at my friend's Jehovah's Witness house (where I had to attend Bible meetings and a 3 day conference), I pretty much avoid organized religion. I'm more of a "un"organized type.
    But daaaamn, your sister SAT YOU DOWN!

  6. O' My Gosh,
    where the hell have you been? This. Cracked. Me. Up!!!!!!!!!!!!