Sisterhood Gifts

Author Unknown until now! If nobody else wants credit, I'll take it!

Author was unknown until now! If nobody else wants credit, I’ll take it!

I am blessed to have two wise and loving biological sisters and a group of beloved girlfriends whom I think of as my sisters. Together, these talented, intelligent, funny and generous women make up my posse. And while I possibly could make it through life without them, I hope I never have to.

My sisters mean the world to me – I’m a better person because of them. They laugh with me, cry with me, call me on my bullshit and cheer for me every step of the way. And they buy me great gifts. What more could a girl want? (Other than more gifts sisters …)

Speaking of gifts, I’m getting a big one today! I’m the featured blogger over at The SITS Girls, a sisterhood of more than 40,000 women connecting and learning the ins and outs of blogging and social media together.

If you’re visiting from SITS, welcome and thanks for stopping by! I started this blog just over a year ago to write about relationships – primarly those I have with my daughters, my husband and myself.

I hope you like what you see and will follow me herethere and everywhere. (You also can leave your gifts in the comments. Or send via Fed Ex.)

Those two glorious peanuts in the picture above are my daughters Rhys (5) and Ava (9). I hope they’ll stop fighting long enough to be blessed throughout their lives with the same rich, vital sister relationships I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy.  Here’s to the joys of sisterhood for all of us!

Let's hope these two always remember how much they love each other ...

Let’s hope these two always remember how much they love each other.
If not, let’s hope they find someone other than me to blame!

Memorial Day Menu: Humble Pie

After enjoying several days of a lovely long weekend, apparently I’d had my fill of relaxation, barbecues and fun with friends and family. I spent Memorial Day on a bender, tearing through our house in my best martyr mode, uncluttering, organizing, cleaning and folding the loads of laundry stacked up since my last martyr fest.

I was a whirlwind of non-stop activity. And I silently let all the lazy asses in my house know just how annoyed I was at them for relaxing and enjoying their day off. And by “them” I mean my husband.

As I hauled out bag after bag of clothes for Goodwill, I made sure to sigh in front of Mike as often as possible as he enjoyed yet another snack while reading the newspaper. I gave him my best evil eye as I cleaned the floor under the breakfast table where he sat. He smiled and expressed his love for me.

I gave him my best harrumph as I dragged bags of garbage out to the alley. He sipped his coffee, blissfully unaware of my seething inner monologue. (For those of you untrained in master martyrdom, keeping hostility bottled up is part of the fun. Asking for help isn’t nearly as satisfying as hoarding a heaping bowl of resentment.)

There was no reason I couldn’t have sat on my ass all morning. We had no big plans for the day and our daughters were playing happily together (after I cajoled them into picking up their toys by withholding the iPad until the playroom was cleaned. My husband is cajoled by one thing and one thing only, and I was too steeped in annoyance for that!).

Though I made myself miserable, I got a lot accomplished that day.

Today, my husband is working from home. He’s busy with reports and conference calls, a steady stream of activity. And I’m having trouble getting anything accomplished. Not one thing. I’ve sat down to write at least three times and haven’t been able to jot down a coherent thought (not that I usually let that stop me!).

The more he works, the less I accomplish. Has he harrumphed me even once? Not yet.

Is he feeling superior and resentful? Mike doesn’t work that way. Frankly, he’s not at all concerned with what I’m accomplishing. That treasured measuring task falls solely on my capable shoulders. I’m the scorekeeper and today he’s ringing my bell.

He could chastise me or rub my nose in it, but he’s too busy working. What I should be doing. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Letting myself relax feels impossible today. I feel like shit for not accomplishing something. Accomplishment is my higher power, and I bow at its altar on a daily basis. I need a new way of relating. Or maybe a lobotomy. And sex. Either way … HELP!

Smells Like the Old Country

Have you ever traveled home from Europe with a carry-on full of pungent, homemade cheese? No?

Ever flown cross country with a Tupperware full of homemade fish salad nestled between your thighs? Never?

Are you willing to find out what you’ve been missing? If so, you too can be part of my family’s unofficial culinary exchange program.

I come from a large Italian family. My father was born in Italy and immigrated to the United States in his early twenties. Several family members still live in the same port city in Italy’s Puglia region where he grew up.

Whenever a family member, distant relative or willing friend travels to Europe, he or she is asked to bring an extra suitcase full of items our relatives in Italy covet but don’t have easy access to. Our team of volunteer couriers has shuttled items ranging from aluminum foil to Ziploc bags and everything in between.

On the trip home things get really interesting. Those same suitcases are often returned full of our Italian relatives’ homemade culinary gifts, including such savory delicacies as dried salumi, blanched white almonds, grape must and aged ricotta cheese.

My family also dabbles in domestic food transactions. For years, every time I visited my sister on the East Coast I lugged a suitcase full of my mom’s delicious baked goods. Tins brimming with calzones, taralli, focaccia, biscotti – I’ve traveled with it all.

But I drew the line at schlepping fish salad after watching my mom navigate a flight carrying a large Tupperware of her delicious seafood stew. Without breaking a sweat or spilling a drop, my petite, plucky mother caught that container as it tumbled out of the overhead compartment and carried it between her legs the rest of the flight. My mom and her fish salad are the reasons flight attendants now remind passengers to use caution when removing items from overhead bins.

The latest Italian delicacy to traverse the globe is a ten pound package of homemade Italian cheese sent with love to my dad from his sister in Italy. After changing hands several times en route to Chicago, the aroma-challenged package now occupies my refrigerator awaiting its final destination.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

These culinary reminders of home fill my dad with joyful nostalgia and fill me with unease. I won’t eat anything that’s been out of a refrigerator for more than 37 seconds. My 83-year-old father prefers dairy products that have endured unrefrigerated transatlantic travel.

While many of you will no doubt see this food exchange as a charming, loving tradition, I’m beginning to wonder. Perhaps there is a good reason some of these food items are not readily available in the United States? Where are those pesky U.S. Customs officials when you need them?

Thankfully, our family’s gene pool has evolved to include iron-clad stomachs impervious to the foodborne illnesses known to level mere mortals. And, just in case, I’ve become an expert at dialing 9-1-1.

Strangers On a Street

I was the sort of kid who spent afternoons playing with dolls on the grass, utterly focused in my own imaginary world. That’s how David snuck up on me that day.

Although our houses faced each other on Westover Street, per some unspoken rule, David and I never crossed over, each playing only in our respective front yards.

We’d gone to school together since kindergarten, but our taste in toys separated us as surely as our mothers’ dislike for each other.

“The only time that woman talks to me is to brag about her kids,” I overheard my mom tell my dad one evening. “If I have to listen one more time to how ‘exceptionally gifted’ David is, I’m going to scream!”

All I knew is that David spent hours marching his GI Joe dolls up and down the thick branches of the oak trees dotting his front yard. He never played with other kids, and he never said a word to me.

But that day was different. Even the air smelled wrong, like a mixture of damp towels and rotten eggs.

As I played on the grass, making Barbie kiss Ken again and again, David appeared, towering over me, blocking the sun.

“Wanna see something cool?” he said.

Startled, I jumped up, wiping grass off my knobby knees. David seemed wild and unexpectedly animated, his flat black hair in tangles and his mouth contorted in an unusually toothy grin.

“No, thanks,” I said, clenching my eyes shut as I bent down to pick up Barbie. I felt both excited and scared, unsure what to make of this new version of my typically somber neighbor.

“You don’t have to touch it. It won’t hurt you,” he said.

As I opened my eyes, my scream stuck in my throat, like it did in nightmares when an unknown danger approached and my voice wouldn’t work.

David’s cupped hand cradled the ugliest creature I’d ever seen. Its red protruding eyes stared into my own bulging browns.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“My dad says these 17-year cicadas are gonna be everywhere in a few days,” David said. “This is the first cicada on our block, and I found it.”

“No way,” I said, a swell of defensiveness tempering my fear. “I bet we have way more of those ugly bugs in our yard than you do.”

David shrugged his shoulders and walked away, murmuring quietly to himself.

I felt confused and angry. How dare he come over here to brag!

I spent the rest of the afternoon searching unsuccessfully for my own cicadas, hoping to best David while simultaneously praying to never see those bulging red eyes again.

Over the next several weeks, as the cicadas invaded every crevice of our neighborhood and we grew intimately familiar with these mysterious creatures, I silently watched David from my side of the street quietly marching GI Joes up and down the tree trunks in his yard. I never again saw his face light up with such pure excitement. And he never crossed over to our yard again.

I’ll Be the One Screaming: Around the Bonfire

I am one of those people. The type who on the outside looks pulled together, in control, on top of things in life. And sometimes, I am. Mostly on Tuesdays. The rest of the time, my calm exterior hides a riot of emotions ranging from anxiety to joy, with buckets full of anger sandwiched in between.

Although I’ve shared about anger in posts like Anger Looks Good on Me and Making Room for Chaos, I’m taking a leap of faith today and guest posting at Gigi Ross’s Kludgy Mom about how we’re navigating anger in our family. My post, Screaming With My Daughters, is part of Gigi’s weekly “Around the Bonfire” series, and I’m honored to be there.

If you don’t know Gigi Ross and her insightful, hilarious blog, Kludgy Mom, you’re missing out. And we all know how much I you hate to miss out. So check out Gigi’s site and join us today (Wednesday) from 12Noon to 1 pm (Central) for a live Bonfire Chat  to discuss anger – yours, mine and ours – and how we’re teaching our kids to express this complicated emotion. Hope to see you there!*

*That’s a lie. I’m terrified to do this webchat and secretly hope no one shows up or my computer crashes. But then I’ll be sad and angry. So either way, it should be a good time!

Around-the-bonfire

Place Your Bets: The “L” Word

Cuddled on the couch with my boyfriend, his sturdy chest a pillow for my head, I was enjoying a lazy Sunday morning reading the The New York Times and licking Cinnabon frosting residue from my fingertips. Sedated by the sunshine and carb overdose, I felt all shades of happy, the two of us the picture of young, uncomplicated love.

Life was good. My new job was proving to be challenging and promising, my relationship of four months, steady and fun, and most importantly, my previously too tight jeans, loose and comfortable, the result of a bonus new relationship weight loss. I had it all.

“I’ve read this article on Iraq invading Kuwait twice, and I have no idea what I just read,” I said.

“I told you Cinnabons were dangerous. All that sugar is rotting your brain cells,” he replied.

“Do you even know where Kuwait is?” I said.

“I did before I ate those two buns.”

Laughing, I enjoyed his warm embrace and scratchy day-old beard on my cheek.

“God, I love you!” I said.

I gasped aloud as his body stiffened and my breathing stalled. Did I just say that out loud?

Several moments passed as I registered the horror of my words. Denied an exhale, my lungs burned and the hairs on my arms stood up in declarations of danger.

Maybe he hadn’t heard me.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

Oh, he heard. Shit!

My mental tailspin was as immediate and unstoppable as a bullet tearing through flesh. I’d done it – used the “L” word first. It was a rookie mistake, and I no longer qualified as a rookie.

“I meant to say, ‘I love this.’ This. Spending  Sundays with you. This,” I stammered. My face grew red as my discomfort expanded in lockstep with my lie. The moment for me to shut up was right then.

“I love this too,” he said, his tone imperceptible to my ear.

The sound of blood rushing in my head blocked out everything except the wall-rattling, soul-jarring noise of the El train rumbling past my apartment at its appointed quarter-hour. I couldn’t turn around, couldn’t look at him. If I’d had a bookie or any savings, I would have placed a substantial bet then and there on the outcome of our relationship.

Hey, Ace, put ten grand on Over Within a Month to win, place and show.

Place Your Bets! Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Place Your Bets!
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Instead, I erupted in uncontrollable giggles, either from lack of oxygen or complete humiliation. Or both.

Without turning to face him, my back still against his chest, I announced, “Yes, I said I love you, and now that it’s out of my mouth, I want to take it back. But I can’t. So deal with it.”

His response? A deep laugh and a bear hug.

There, I thought. Now we can move on. Right?

I would have lost my shirt on Over Within a Month. Turns out, Two Weeks was the winning bet.