day 13: what food does

Breakfast like my grandparents liked it… hot tea with milk and sugar, a toasted English muffin with butter in the nooks and crannies…
Lunch with work friends… a rare day out all together to celebrate a birthday, Carolina seafood style: (there was sushi too, just so it wasn’t all fried…)

Dinner was fun too: Rod brought the girls to church/my office and we all stayed and ate pizza with more friends before church started.

I know in many places food is an important necessity turned luxury that is hard to come by. The importance placed on all its connotations is very ‘first world.’ In this world where I live, I am grateful for food that can be shared, the memories it can invoke, and the memories it helps to make.

day 12: random things

I am grateful for…

…being self-published, so if I don’t have much to say, I just don’t
….friends who understand and friends who don’t
…Sonic limeades
…my puppy, even when he is smelly

…my daughter-in-law (that sounds so weird)/my friend’s perfect-sounding new job
…that this brrrrcold front will only be here for one day
…living next door to the cutest little 6 month old boy in the world
The Blacklist
…our awesome comfortable couch that was purchased from consignment at the exact price we sold our old couches for
the sound of my daughters reading
…that I knew more than 5 people at tonight’s PTA meeting

plan disney
…that it looks like next year will include more travel than this one. I’ve become quite the homebody, but sometimes I miss going.
Thor: The Dark World. It was quite entertaining.
…fun conversations about movies and TV
…thoughtful conversations about much deeper things
…my husband‘s adorableness when he’s watching Kentucky basketball, doing the dishes, troubleshooting a work problem, or brushing our girls’ hair
the beach is still there, even if I haven’t seen it in 2 weeks

day 11: yellow ribbons

This a post I made last night that I’d like to preserve:

dad's dog tags

Today in church, after a beautifully sung a Capella national anthem, I turned around and really, really hugged a stranger, a vet, with tears in his eyes and mine. I hugged him for every vet that I can’t thank personally. He was in Vietnam, like my dad. I’m thankful every day for what this country means to us and who defends it… I’m also really proud & grateful that my dad gave me these… That stranger told me later when I ‘met’ him (and apologized in case I was inappropriate:) that when he hears the song, he thinks about his 9 months over there. How dare we ever take it lightly…the flag IS still flying.

I was raised with a sense of patriotism. I was raised in the Midwest by church-going, blue-color-working, military-supporting patriots. My maternal grandparents were Irish immigrants, and to this day, they were some of those most America-loving people I know. Their basement was decorated with photos of presidents (all Republican, save for JFK, a good Irish-Catholic lad ;) ), military tributes, and The Flag. My dad served in Vietnam in the army, and my brother in the National Guard. {And I married into a similar family… my husband served briefly, as did his dad, and his stepdad retired from the Air Force}.

My first real introduction to what it means to support our soldiers was during Desert Storm. I went to a junior high that was all in. Our computer classes spent a lot of time word-processing letters to the troops (thanks to our awesome teacher, Mr. Griffin!) We tied yellow ribbons and talked about current affairs in class, and my friends and I watched CNN (another crush: Charles Jaco on CNN, whose super-hero like coverage during the first night is now reported to be fake. Good grief, I was a weird kid).yellow-ribbon1

Desert Storm took place when I was in eighth grade. My uncle’s brother-in-law (got that?) served there in the Marines, and I wrote to him while he was there. When he came home, we had a party for him at my grandparents house. I remember two things about that night: One is that, of course, I fell in “crush” with him and thought of him each of the eleventy-thousand times I listened to “On My Own” from Les Miserables that summer.

The second and important thing I remember is a conversation between him and my dad. My Dad, a sappy Italian soul, thanked Andy with tears in his eyes. And Andy, a young and respectful Marine, told my Dad, “All these parades and everything should be for you guys.”

Wow, wow, wow.

When 9/11 happened, love for country took on a new meaning. Among many encounters and special memories from that time, I began my first version of blogging, which I dug up tonight on the “way back machine.” That was the only time in my life when the country seemed smaller, more personal, and unified.

Patriotism is a lot more complicated today. Connotations of political and religious affiliations often skew the real meaning of it. The simplicity of it is an attachment, an affection, for one’s country and culture. Let me tell you, from the freedom to worship to Chicago’s skyline to Hollywood movies to the South Carolina shore, there is a whole bunch I love about this country. We can all lament about what it used to be and may never be again, but for everything it has remained, we have our military to thank. And we do… we so do.

day 10: Christmas traditions


When it comes to holidays and rituals and traditions, every family has their own preferences, and they usually come from every family’s own baggage and the desire to do things better than how it was done to them.

Our holiday ‘ideals’ center around a few basics. We don’t want them to be overly fussy. We don’t want to emphasize presents. We always want to include people who might not have somewhere to go.


We do Santa in a pretty breezy way… There are cookies and notes, but not a lot of focus. Mama and Daddy give the gifts. We decorate early, again, because we don’t want to spend the season being busy, but enjoying it.

We blend Thanksgiving into Christmas with our sweet Randa’s birthday pretty much kicking off the whole thing. And since sometimes her day is near Thanksgiving, sometimes not, sometimes we have out of town guests, sometimes not… It never looks the same. That’s part of the fun. A few years ago we began to commemorate Hanukkah, as the girls’ grandpa is Jewish. We love it all. It all celebrates God. We love to celebrate His light and love.

We do not jump up and down yelling about the Reason For The Season…or that it should be called Christmas and not the Holidays, because we live a faith and Jesus centered life with our kids daily. And frankly, in this day and age, if someone wishes me a happy holiday rather than avoiding eye contact or honking their horn at me for not going the millisecond the light turns green, I’m feeling pretty good about life.

This year, we’re placing more emphasis on time together and giving to others. We are going to enjoy the anticipation of a family wedding. And we’re going caroling! I’m stoked. I’ve always wanted to carol in my flip flops when it’s 70 degrees out.

Chicagolina Christmas #3… Bring it on.

day 9: no regrets

ELEVEN years ago today, a single, type-A girl moved in with the love of her life, 13 years older, and his kids, 13 & 15 years younger, respectively.

Somehow we made it through housekeeping, disciplining, 2 more kids, and many, many other differences and lessons.


Tonight, most of those same people will gather at our home, 1000 miles away from where we started, and put ornaments on the tree.

Our love story, our family picture, it is so far from perfect. And the holidays between then and now sure held their shares of ups and downs (just ask us to tell you about 2008, the Christmas decorating day from hell, complete with stomach flu…). I have often asked myself if I have any regrets, and the truth is, yes. I regret the times I was not honest with myself or with others. I regret the people I hurt by not meeting their expectations of me. I regret the time I wasted trying to fix things that I could not control.


But I don’t regret our unconventional, slightly cracked, beautiful family. I would not trade it for any other.