Musings of an Italian-American Catholic wife, mother, and writer

Musings of an Italian-American Catholic wife, mother, and writer

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Panera Adventure which Inspired a New Year's Post


Early this morning I rolled out of bed and decided to surprise everyone with cinnamon crunch bagels from Panera.

This is what I was wearing when I walked out our back door: my pajamas.
Yes, indeed.

My nightgown hung below my coat, but I hoped people would think it was a tunic. I was wearing my pajama leggings, but I slipped on my mukluks in an attempt (a rather feeble one) to go for a ski resort effect, or something. I coiled a scarf around my neck for good measure and wore my biggest pair of sunglasses. My hair was in a ponytail; I hadn’t even looked in the mirror.


The only thing going for me? I was color coordinated with varying shades of black and grey (no lectures, please).

Fifteen minutes later I was walking into Panera and here were my thoughts: Please, God, don’t let me bump into anyone I know. Please, God, don’t let anyone recognize me. Please, God, don’t let a camera-yielding reporter from the Augusta Chronicle be here asking everyone for their New Year’s Resolutions.

And then this happened:

“Welcome to Panera!” boomed the chirpy Panera employee. “Wow! Don’t you look nice and put together this early Saturday morning. I just love your outfit.”


She was totally sincere.

Everyone turned to look at me – EVERYONE – and while my initial reaction was to melt into a puddle of embarrassment, I instead decided to fully embrace the moment by giving everyone my biggest, brightest, most all-inclusive smile. And people smiled back.

I'm back home now, and as I eat my cinnamon crunch bagel and sip my frothy cappuccino, I have decided to put aside my original New Year’s post (which, by the way, was appropriately introspective and nostalgic) and instead go with my Panera Adventure which, as it turns out, yielded some beautiful lessons: life is messy and full of the unknown but that messy and unknown can still be good; that sometimes we need to step out of our head and just be; that many times how we perceive ourselves is not how people see us; and that sometimes we just need to be present in the moment and roll with it.

All lessons that can be resolutions.

And so from someone who is still in her pajamas, I wish everyone a Happy New Year!
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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Nonna to the Rescue

Yesterday Timothy was following me around the kitchen, worried.


"I think I've been MOSTLY good. I mean, sometimes I wasn't, but MOSTLY I was. Do you think I've been good?" he asked.


"I think that worrying about this on December 23rd is a little late," I replied.


Timothy stopped pacing.


"That's it," he announced. "I'm calling Nonna."


And after he finished talking with Nonna, he handed me the phone and I got a lecture.


#nonnaconnections


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Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Good Man


Last night I was sitting in the van with Nicholas in a not very nice section of town. Our reliable (at least until that moment) Neon had quit while on the drive home from work, and I had come to pick up Joe and Nicholas. It was dark and cold. We were watching Joe, across the street, call the insurance company, arrange for a tow truck and then, over an hour later, help Wayne’s Towing Service load our Nissan onto the bed of the truck. All while this was going on I thought over the past couple of days when Joe helped the boys order their books for next semester, fixed the garbage disposal, reviewed Timothy’s math homework, investigated a fraud alert on my Costco credit card, and bought me a dozen roses for our anniversary.

“Your father takes such good care of us,” I said softly to Nicholas. “He is a good man and works hard.”

And sitting there, in the cold and dark in the not so nice part of town, my heart was full.

Happy Anniversary, Joey. Twenty-six years and counting.


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Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Week of Quick Takes


Monday

Morning cappuccino with a friend. Great way to start the week.
Photo:
cappuccino and girlfriend talk

Tuesday

Done, done, and done. Christmas shopping, that is, and so I spent the morning listening to my Pandora Christmas station and wrapping presents. Before you get mad at me, just know that I was able to do this for two reasons:  1/ we keep presents to a minimum and 2/ most of my shopping is done online. Amazon Prime is my best friend. So is the mailman. I still have to get a few things (stocking stuffers, for example), but nothing that will necessitate me going to the mall or Toys R Us on a Saturday afternoon (the very thought makes me shudder).
Photo:
Christmas tunes on Pandora

Wednesday

Christmas Bunco: What can I say about a group of friends who have gotten together once a month for the past 15 years for dinner, Bunco, and good times? Sometimes the only words are those engraved on the heart.
Photo:
Christmas Bunco 2016

Thursday

A Night on the town: I went with some friends to Aiken for The Night of 100 Lights complete with luminaries, carolers, festively decorated stores, and free samples – cookies! wine! shrimp & grits! Did I mention the free wine?
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Aiken, SC
Night of 1000 Lights




Friday

A perfect evening: A Christmas tree, three boxes of ornaments, and all the boys home. This mom’s heart was full.
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Decorating the tree

Saturday

An Afternoon trifecta: a basketball game, Mass, and dinner at Arby’s.  All in a row, one after the other. Oh, and Jonathan’s former co-worker was working behind the counter so he treated us to milkshakes and turnovers.
Photo:
basketball, Mass, Arby's ...
in that order


Sunday

Lunch with i Nonni: Despite a lunch of Tuscan pork tenderloin, garlic mashed potatoes, dumplings, and apple/cranberry salad, the ONLY compliment I received was for these hideous cookies. Go figure.
Photo:
These cookies (snowmen that look like ghosts and Christmas trees that look like arrows)
 are proof as to why I love to cook ...
but hate to bake.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving Full

Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. It's an uncomplicated holiday -- one that is simply about sitting down with family and friends and breaking bread together. Really, it doesn’t get better than that. This year Thanksgiving was extra special.


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Thanksgiving Gathering


It’s all about family

And lots of it. Although we were hosting for Joe’s side of the family, because my parents live locally and I have siblings nearby, Thanksgiving was a coming together of both sides. Joe and I are very blessed in that not only do we have wonderful parents and siblings, but our families know each other and get along.  I love, for example, that my brother-in-law went fishing with my father and that my sister-in-law was helping my sister bargain shop for a Nespresso machine.

Taking it outside

From the moment we started planning, I knew that we would be dining outside under a canopy of red, yellow, and orange leaves – the bounty of family and food nestled within the bounty of nature.
Photo:
Twenty-two around the table.


Thanksgiving Day Weekend

With family arriving from Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, Thanksgiving was a weekend affair. And we kept everyone busy . . .

Wednesday night: the Novajosky Soup Kitchen (soup, salad, fruit salad) officially opened for anyone who rolled into town at any time.

Thursday: Thanksgiving dinner
Photo:
Give Thanks (printed from Pinterest)

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Place settings (harvest leaves also found on Pinterest)
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The buffet line.
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Cousins waiting for the dinner bell.

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My sister made the most decorative pumpkin pie.
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We could not have asked for more perfect weather.

Thursday night: S’mores, wine, conversation, and laughter around the fire pit.
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There is something magical about gathering around a fire.

Friday: Picnic at Hamilton Branch State Park with fishing, boat rides from Nonno, cornhole, and golf. Golf?!?  Why yes, golf.  With an island just offshore, Joe brought clubs and a box of 150+ old golf balls and challenged everyone to hit “closest to the pin” (a marker in the middle of the island). I can’t say for sure, but a LOT of balls landed in the lake.
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Cornhole
1. too far away  2. a little closer   3. perfect distance
Photo:
Will and Matt heading out with Nonno for a boat ride.
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Closest to the pin.
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Hamilton Branch State Park
(for the picnic, our number grew to 27 when my brother's family joined us)
Friday night: the girls attended The Nutcracker at the Imperial Theater.
Photo:
My sister-in-law saying hello to James Brown before heading to the
The Nutcracker at the Imperial Theater.
Saturday: visiting Aiken
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Aiken was bursting with fall colors.

Football and Shopping

From the moment we parked in downtown Aiken, there was a problem. What to do with all the guys while the gals explored the stores along Laurens Street? THE SOLUTION: park them in the upstairs sports bar of the Aiken Brewing Company. With a gazillion televisions broadcasting every football game known to man, and fortified with a hearty lunch, the guys were perfectly content to stay right where they were and the gals were free to explore and shop.
Photo:
Aiken Brewing Company for Papa and the guys.



Thanksgiving Full


By Saturday evening everyone had gone. Our driveway, which had looked like a car lot for three days, was empty. When Joe, the boys and I came home from Mass, we sat around the fireplace and shared memories from the weekend. It was all so very good.
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And then there was one ...
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I'm not going to lie. Sunday I was tired and stayed in my pj's all day,
but it was a good tired. A contented tired. A grateful tired.
And I would do it all again.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Thanksgiving Prayer

               If you feed them, they will come. While the statement makes me smile considering I have three sons whose happiness is in direct proportion to the contents of our pantry, this year it’s become all the more meaningful as my husband and I prepare to host Thanksgiving for his side of the family. But because my parents live locally and I have siblings that live nearby, the holiday will be a gathering of both our families which, because of the sheer numbers, means that we are taking Thanksgiving outside with long tables set with platters of food, a fire pit crackling nearby, an area designated for a cornhole tournament, and a backdrop of trees showcasing leaves of brilliant orange, red and yellow.

                On Wednesday, they will begin arriving from near and far – Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia. They will come, these brothers, sisters, wives, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, all representing a variety of professions: engineers, accountants, businessmen, a teacher, an information specialist, a personal trainer, a writer. Some are students in middle school, one is a high school senior, several are in college, and a few have recently graduated. There is a beautiful boy with autism, a Papa who is 87 years old and bringing a homemade cherry pie, a Nonno who will soon get a brand new knee, and a Nonna who brings her Italian heritage into this very American holiday by offering an espresso with your pumpkin pie.

                That’s a lot of family, and while we are a cohesive group, we are still individuals with ideas, passions, and opinions; in other words, we don’t agree on everything and, in fact, often have polar viewpoints on issues dealing with religion, politics, and world affairs. So when our family gathers, it’s hectic; we are loud, opinionated, loving, and competitive, and not unlike families everywhere, it isn’t always perfect.

                And yet, it is. Thanksgiving reminds us of this. In all the running around we do to live our lives, and despite all those things that make life messy and chaotic – work, politics, doctor’s appointments, sports practices, exams, job interviews – it’s nice to have a day in which the only thing that matters is sitting down and breaking bread together.

                And having one more slice of that pumpkin pie.

                So, this weekend my husband and I will tackle our to-do lists in preparation to host our families. We will pull out board games and wash guest towels and plan activities; we will keep fingers crossed for good weather and prepare for sons coming home from college; and we will print out our family’s Thanksgiving prayer for everyone to read aloud. It’s a special prayer, written by Lino Villacha, and my mother became pen pals with Lino through her best friend who was, for many years, a missionary in Brazil. Lino’s poem, Obrigado Senhor, is a prayer thanking God for everything he had – and when you read his words in light of the fact that he suffered with leprosy and lived in poverty, it puts things in perspective. 

                In his poem Lino thanks God for healthy limbs when so many are crippled; for a voice that sings when many are mute; for hands that work when so many have to beg; and for a home to return to when so many don’t know where they are going. And as we read the poem reminding us to celebrate what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t, it’s always the last two lines which capture the essence of Thanksgiving: It is wonderful, Lord, to have so little to ask/And so much to be thankful for.

                To which the only response for all of us holding hands around the table this Thanksgiving will be a heartfelt and very humble, Amen.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Story of a Vote


               Last Saturday my husband and I voted, which just happened to be the day after the FBI’s announcement concerning Hillary Clinton’s emails. But the headlines weren’t a factor in us going to vote; simply, for several weeks the date had been marked on our calendar with a smiley face and the words Go Vote! written in cheerful purple ink.

                But that morning as I inserted my ballot into the machine I was anything but cheerful. And I wasn’t smiling. This entire election season has weighed heavily on me not only because of its contentiousness, but because our two eldest sons would be voting in their first general election and I was viewing the entire process through their eyes.

                “Our first time voting for president and these are our choices?” asked one son.

                Yes, indeed. After a primary season of drawn battle lines and hurled insults, after more qualified candidates were ignored or forced out, and after the dust finally settled, like it or not, these were our choices for president. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any more sordid, it did, and the entire nation entered a political season the likes of which will be talked about for generations.

                As a writer, I haven’t been shy about sharing my struggle about this election. During the primaries this past March, I wrote a guest column for The Augusta Chronicle in which I listed all the reasons why I could not vote for Donald Trump (One key question canhelp us recognize our role in the political arena, Sunday, March 6, 2016). At the time, I honestly thought that out of so many qualified nominees, there was no way he could win the nomination. Boy did I get it wrong.

                So like many voters, I was in a bad place. I strongly disliked Trump, and I felt the same about Clinton. In many ways I was very bipartisan in my inherent distrust of both candidates. I suppose the pollsters would have labeled me an undecided voter, but I wasn’t so much undecided as disgusted. What to do?

                There was no end to the advice – from family, friends, talk show hosts, political pundits, and experts.  Many cautioned to think long term; that is, ignore the candidate and vote on a single issue or strictly for the party’s platform. In theory, a single issue vote made sense – and for me that would be the Pro-Life ticket – but in reality it would mean casting a vote while holding my breath, pinching my nose, and ignoring the elephant in the room (no pun intended). Figuratively, I’d still be standing next to a person I didn’t believe in.

                Voting third party, then, was another option. This was new territory for me, which was daunting only because I was starting fresh. I had to learn, read, and investigate my options.

                Then there are those who advised me to brandish my vote like a weapon to stick it to the other side. I admired these voters because they were so sure, but in their single-minded quest to keep out the other candidate they ignored any scandal, FBI investigation, sexual assault, or outrageous video that put their candidate in a bad light; furthermore, when their candidate did something wrong they’d protest how the other candidate did something even more wrong.

                It’s funny (but really it’s not) because all I could ever see were flaws – serious ones – on both sides.

                What ever happened to casting a vote for someone?

                Maybe I’ve been too idealistic, but in past elections I always thought of my vote as an expression of what I am voting for; in other words, a vote was my way of saying I believe, hope, and trust you; here is my vote because I have every confidence you will lead our country well, with honor and integrity, and that you will be a role model for our children.

                Except this time I can’t say any of that about either candidate. I cannot extol their virtues, sing their praises, or put them on a pedestal. Neither candidate is worthy of my vote, but one will get it because despite all the mess, I will vote. Too many have sacrificed so I can have that privilege, and I will always honor that gift.

                So I went to vote last Saturday, and standing next to me was our twelve year old son who, along with his older brothers, is learning that sometimes a leader is not a role model, sometimes life gives us choices in which there are no clear answers, and sometimes we need to struggle to do the right thing.

                “I insert the card here,” I whispered to my son. “Then I go through each page and check the boxes. And look, here on the last page, it says ‘CAST YOUR BALLOT.’”

                And so I did.

                In the end, what did I decide? Well, I’m going to leave it there, preferring to let that question mark represent all who struggled, like I did, with what to do.  And hopefully the openness of a question mark – an unknown future, if you will – will lead us on a pathway to something nobler because, as a nation, we can do better than being forced to make the best bad choice.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Seeking Sympathy

"Nonna, listen to this. We went to church this past Saturday night, like we always do. Then I will go to church on Monday because that's when the seventh grade goes. Tuesday I go again for All Saints' Day, on Friday we have our all school Mass, and then we'll be back again Saturday night. That's FIVE times in eight days. You need say a prayer for me so I'll survive."

~Timothy, in a voicemail to Nonna who is always the recipient on any news related to church or church attendance.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

When to be Sweet as Pie

Poor Joe. He doesn't know what awaits.


As I write this I am waiting for him to come home after running a quick errand. He promised me that today -- his day off -- we will hang a few pictures in our rec room.


But by "we" I mean him, and by "a few" I mean ... more than a few.


And it's going to involve much more than pounding a nail. My "few" items are oversized, heavy, and will require some drilling. He's going to have to find studs, anchor screws, and be very precise.


So, here is a graphic on what the next couple of hours will look like:


Photo:
Joey


Photo:
Bia


I'm going to be sweet as pie and not even mention the two lighting fixtures we need to hang in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

It's Fall, Y'all (Actually, It's Not)

Here we are at the end of October, but it doesn't feel like October should feel. At all. The temps through the weekend are going to be in the mid-80's and, I don't know about you, but that totally depresses me.


Last weekend we spent three days in the mountains where I felt like I could finally breathe. Deeply. Crisp mountain air, clear skies and low temperatures made me feel energized ... alive ... healthy.


And then we came home to more of the same old, same old.


So today, I decided to put up some autumn d├ęcor in a feeble attempt to at least pretend that it's fall. I planted flowers, spray painted flower boxes, hung up wreaths, and decorated the front porch.


And sweated the entire time.


So even though it's October (but not fall) I'm going to be Scrooge (even thought it's not even December) and say, "Bah-humbug."


It's just all messed up.


Photo:
Front Door


Photo:
Front Entrance


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They may not be terribly sophisticated, but yellow pansies make me happy.
(I spray painted the flower boxes a nice brown for fall.)


Photo:
Back Door

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It Began with a Little Box of Hair Color

This morning I had an appointment with a little box of hair color which, after the application, shampoo and styling, made me feel like a new person.


In fact, with the new hair color and the perfect (read: not humid) weather, I was on track to having a good hair day.


And anything is possible when I am having a good hair day. So with a spring in my step I headed out to run some errands, none of which were exciting -- bank, Costco, Office Max -- but the day was bright with the sunshine of possibility.


Then I made an impulse stop at a furniture consignment store.


Y'all.


As you may know, I have been re-doing our rec/entertainment room and scouring the internet for various items: farm table, lighting, accent lamps, and two parsons chairs. The chairs were suggested by a very talented friend who thought that Parsons chairs would add a little contrast/color to the wood farm table and chairs. I liked the idea, but didn't like the prices I found at Pier One, Wayfair, Amazon, or Joss & Main (prices ranged anywhere from $80-$160).


But in that consignment store this morning, I stumbled upon two BRAND NEW Parsons chairs. For only $27 each. Including the beautifully custom designed chair covers.


And my day kept getting better: Joe arrived home safely after being gone all week, no school or work tomorrow means a three-day weekend for all, Georgialina Billiards (who has rescheduled their appointment twice) is finally here changing the cloth on our pool table, and I lost five pounds.


Okay, kidding about the five pounds. I think. But clothes are fitting more loosely, so I'll just go with it.


I'm telling you ... a little box of hair color. That's all it takes.


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Monday, October 10, 2016

You Can't Fool Me

"Oh no. You can't fool me. Timothy's class just read Rudyard Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi and the evil Nagaina laid 25 snake eggs. Twenty-five! How do you know we don't have 25 snake eggs under our porch steps?"

~Me to Joe, who tried to reassure me that the not-your-garden-variety snake he just killed at the bottom of our porch steps was the only one.


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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Of Two Minds


Of Two Minds
It could be.
But it’s not.
Be happy with your lot.
 
It could be.
But it’s not.
Try and give it a shot.
 
*from the files of very bad poetry by bia

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Hello Weekend


Benjamin Moore first stop of the day
Paint to channel my inner Monet.
Interviewed a priest from the mid-west 
Post office, Publix, carpool … I’m stressed! 
Then homemade chicken nuggets to dine
Later, this poem. Do I have the time?!
But the setting sun’s just ‘round the bend 
Two days to unwind … hello weekend. 
 
*from the files of very bad poetry by bia
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Worst Week EVER

"This has been the worst week ever," announced Timothy when I picked him up from school this afternoon.


"Worst week ever, EVER?" I asked.


"Ever." he said.


"Of your entire life?"


He nodded.


Oh boy. He's only 12 and it's only Wednesday.


So on the way home he told me about this and about that. There wasn't one specific thing, just a bunch of little things that, when added together, did indeed make it seem like the worst week EVER.


And in listening to him, I realized I had forgotten how rough these middle school years can be. It's a messy, confusing time. A time in which sometimes kids need to figure things out by themselves.


Joe and I have always said that one of the hardest things about parenting is finding the wisdom (and courage) to step back and allow our sons to work things out on their own. Our son had a bad day, I knew that, but I also knew there was nothing I could do to fix the problem. Offer words of encouragement? Yes, of course. Try to make him laugh? Sure. Pray? Yes, often and sometimes desperately.


But fix the problem? No, not all the time.


So I listened to him, gave him some advice, told a corny joke, and assured him that things always look better the next day.


Then we stopped at McDonald's because, you know, sometimes French fries help, too.


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Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Pep Talk in the Mirror

Here's what I like to do: after a gym workout I walk in the locker room and look in the mirror --  not because I look good (believe me, I'm a hot mess) but because I like to take in my sweaty red face, my sweaty hair and my sweaty workout clothes, and know that I worked hard.


This morning, after an hour and a half, I was beyond frightening.


And that's a good thing.


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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Story of an Afternoon

With my Math Man out of town, guess who has to help with math homework?


Yeah, you guessed right.



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After an hour being surrounded by variables, distributive properties, associative properties, and algebraic expressions, Timothy and I were like this ...


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So I decided to cook fish for dinner. Brain food. We needed it. And after eating we were like this ...


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THE END



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Truth or Dare: in which we (mostly) tell the truth and (mostly) perform all dares


When Timothy came home from school last Friday, he went looking for a snack and emerged from the pantry holding a fistful of green straws. GREEN STRAWS! He was so excited. Then he gathered paper, markers, and an entire roll of scotch tape and made giant dice.

Of course, now we had to come up with a game just so we could use the dice. So that night while we were watching the Olympics we rolled the dice to play Truth or Dare – an even number meant a dare, and an odd number meant a truth.  

We played during commercials, and because there were LOTS and LOTS of commercials, there were plenty of opportunities to play our own version of Truth or Dare in which we (mostly) told the truth and (mostly) performed all dares.  

The Truths

Me to Joe: What is the most annoying thing about me?
Joe: Your procrastination.
Huh. I KNEW he was going to say that.

But later he redeemed himself:

Me to Joe: Do you find me as attractive now as the day we first met?
Joe: Even more so!

 

Me to Timothy: Which girl do you like best in the seventh grade?
Timothy:  ------
He got all red, and he was all smiles, but absolutely, unequivocally, steadfastly refused to answer.
Darn. I was hoping to get the scoop.

 

Timothy to me: Who is your favorite son?
Me to Timothy: Because you’re right here, right now, right in this very second … you.

 

The Dares

While the dares I issued were all about stuffing 10 potato chips in your mouth or waltzing with me for one minute (I got my guys to dance!) Timothy and Joe were all about timed sprints up and down stairs, the number of pushups in under one minute, or races around the house.

I’m telling you, with commercials popping up every 8 ½ minutes we got a workout.

But here was the BEST dare of the night.

Timothy to Joe: I dare you to read the first page of this book out loud.

Then he reached blindly into our bookshelf and handed Joe a book. But not just any book. He handed Joe THE SONNETS, poems of love by William Shakespeare. So Joe began reading …

Joe to me: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day …

And during all 14 lines he was laughing, Timothy was groaning, and I was like …

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Friday, August 19, 2016

The Blue Pillow


Men are basically uncomplicated creatures, but I still can’t figure them out. Honestly, I don’t have a clue.

Take their powers of observation, for example. My guys don’t notice when I rearrange furniture, place a new quilt on their bed, or fix an elaborate meal. When I ask if they like my haircut they are puzzled: “You got a haircut?”

Really, not the most observant creatures.

But then something like The Blue Pillow happens which just confirms their alien-ness.

So yesterday, up to my elbows in a deep house cleaning, I decided to place this blue pillow on our reading chair in the family room. I thought a little pop of color would be nice.

And one by one, that blue pillow stopped my guys in their tracks.

 “What’s up with the blue pillow?”

“Where did you get that blue pillow?”

“Why is there a blue pillow on the chair?”

Well. It’s as if the tectonic plates in the earth’s crust shifted, or the stars aligned in some fantastical way, or the events in Area 51 really happened because that blue pillow crash landed in their consciousness.

Folks. I literally walked that blue pillow 20 feet from the rec room to our family room. That blue pillow has been around since the older boys were in grade school. That blue pillow has been used for pillow fights and indoor forts.

And they act as if they've never seen that blue pillow before.

Like I said, mind-boggling.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Maria's Bruschetta

Bruschetta ... so many variations, so many wonderful combinations!


Today I used toasted flatbread, tomatoes, endive lettuce, fresh mozzarella, sea salt, pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar from Modena.


Letting go never easy on the parents



Since so many of you are experiencing the college drop-off day for the first time,
here is an article from last year.


Letting go never easy on the parents
by: Maria Novajosky, Guest Columnist

*published in today's Columbia County News-Times (Wednesday, August 12, 2015)

           Two years ago my husband and I experienced our first college move-in day when our eldest son began his freshman year at Clemson University.

            The date was circled on our calendar for months, and as we added to the ever-growing college stockpile in our dining room, in truth we never thought past that date. Everything we did was leading up to it – purchasing the bed lines, dorm supplies, and textbooks – but we couldn’t envision anything beyond. Sure, we talked about him going away to college in the fall, but all the preparation seemed more like we were planning a trip.

            The night before the official move-in day, we sat down for a special farewell dinner – the last home cooked meal for our son before he had to live off the university meal plan. We watched home videos, laughed, gave advice; we knew he would be leaving tomorrow, but we couldn’t imagine that our family of five would soon be a family of four. I mean, how could we? It was all we had ever known.

            Driving to Clemson that morning we were quiet, and with each passing mile I realized we were driving away from everything we knew and heading into unchartered territory. Our son may have been a freshman, but in many ways my husband and I were, too. When we arrived we were caught up in a whirlwind of orange: the giant paw prints announcing that This Was Tiger Country, the banners, signs and flags welcoming us to campus, and the eight upperclassmen wearing t-shirts the color of construction cones descending on our van to help us carry everything to our son’s room.

            For the next several hours as we helped him unpack, clean, and make his bed, as we met other parents and visited the dining hall, and as we poked around the dorm it was almost fun. Exciting, even.  But there came the moment – somehow we all sensed it at the same time – that the circled date on our calendar was NOW. As we walked out of his room I placed a package on his bed for him to open later – a box filled with notes from his brothers, funny drawings, reminders from Dad, and a stack of blog posts I had written on our family that I printed out and stapled together. Inside was also a bag of dum-dum lollipops because there was something funny about giving a college student something that was dumb.

            When our son walked us to the parking lot there was a moment of awkward silence. How do you take 18 years and reduce them to a single goodbye hug? I looked up at my son and reality crashed down in the form of tears and a lump in my throat that prevented me from saying goodbye, or I love you. I couldn't even say the words.

            And I’ll never, ever forget driving away and feeling as if I left a part of me behind.

            Today, I can still remember that day like it was yesterday. But with the gift of hindsight I can also see how the pain of letting go is much like ripping off a band aid – there is a moment of searing pain, but it passes and then there is room for healing and growth and newness.  These two years we have watched our son turn into a mature engineering student who has already completed two engineering internships and who is headed for a career he truly loves. So I can see how letting go was not only necessary, but good. And yet . . .

            And yet this year we have another date circled on our calendar as next week our middle son starts college. Again, there is a dorm stockpile in the dining room with piles of towels, books, and cleaning supplies stacked between a dorm refrigerator, a nightstand, and a giant, foam mattress pad. The more we add to the piles, the closer the date looms.  

            Will it be easier this time around?

            We may have been through this once before, but no, letting go is never easy. Our family of five down to four and then three; one son at college here, the other son over there, and our home somewhere in the middle. The good news is we still have our third son who, since he is only in the sixth grade, will be with us a while longer.

            Thankfully we don’t have to let him go just yet.