Monday, November 30, 2015

Last Day of NaBloPoMo and Other Stuff

I am pretty relieved today is the last day of NaBloPoMo. Did you know I have participated for three years in a row?

The first year I was a grand success writing every day, and sometimes more than that! Writing came so easily. Back then.

The second year, I failed fairly miserably by blogging almost well the first two weeks then a major fallout happened. I got lazy. My writing suffered. It was hard to get the words back.

This year, I was a little better than halfway between the two. Glancing back over this month, I posted twenty-two entries in thirty days. Not bad, right? I do know that the more often I practiced writing, the easier the words flowed.

NaBloPoMo is a great exercise in writing. For me.

I'm sure most of us can admit that much of the time there a “hanging over my head” feeling. Some of us kind of felt like [UGH!!!!!]. Am I alone here? I am comfortable in discomfort and tried not to get  too stressed about missing a few days.

And we got here. To the last day.

Last days of one thing are often the first days of something else. When a door closes, a window opens.

What’s up next for me? 

It is time to get ready for Christmas. 

"Christmas is coming; the goose is getting fat. 
Please put a penny in the old man's hat. 
If you haven't got a penny, a ha' penny will do. 
If you haven't got a ha' penny, then God bless you." 

Do you know this song? My daughter used to sing it when she was in early elementary school.

Florida, we are (hopefully) coming for ya in a few weeks!!!

And not one morsel or rivulet of unhealthy food or beverage will pass these lips for one entire week (possibly two). 

Regarding the last thing, you may be thinking, “All work (or entirely healthy things) and no play makes Gina a dull girl.” You’d probably be correct. I am hoping daily yoga smooths over the rough edges of what will probably lead to an exceedingly grumpy demeanor. Doesn’t this make you want to come live with me?!?!?

Time to wrap this baby up!

Congratulations to all who wrote every day in the month of November. I am so happy to have read your words! You inspired and motivated me to push on!

Clear eyes, 
Full hearts, 
Can’t lose.
“Friday Night Lights”

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Your One Wild and Precious Life (One of My Favorite Trifecta Entries EVER!!!)

Blogger's Note: I wrote this post on November 27, 2012. I have reposted it every year since on the very same day. Yesterday, I was busy being a day-after-Thanksgiving-Day slug. I forgot. So here it is, a three year old post one day late. 

It remains one of my favorites ever for several reasons. It literally flew off my fingertips conveying my feelings at the time. It was a wholly and intensely cathartic experience. In many ways, I feel the same today as I did then. That is your only clue...

Thanks for re-reading with me.


This isn’t about anyone, nobody at all. It's where an exhausted mind went one morning in late November. I didn’t question it. I simply ran to catch up.


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
- Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems

Fool me once…

Fool me twice…

They caressed and played with my senses.

Your words,

Written, spoken, poems, songs

Were deceptive.

They're hollow I told you at the time
But still, 

"I believe in your confusion".

Looking back through crystal eyes,

I question you more,


Is it just your heart that's
Misleading, elusive

Or all of you?
You are a shell of the person you could be.

You appear so hollow.
Merely a shadow of someone

Trapped within yourself
Never able to get out. Be out. Feel free.

Happy there?
Is it safe enough for you?

Does your passion know where you're hiding?

You’ll glance back with regret, longing, distaste, maybe,

At your life, 

For yourself, but

Probably not.

How’s the view from la-la-land?

Would you even admit the truth?

A better question is, do you know it?

So don’t drown in tears from failures and hurts past

When you realize it,

As the movie reel plays it all back.

Premiering today "Your One Wild and Precious Life".

Sit down; get comfortable; admission is free just for you.

"Beautiful Loser" looping in the background.

I hope it doesn't hurt your feelings.


You had choices at the forks.

Made one or didn’t

Which is a choice, too.
You did it yourself.

Your creation.

It’s all on you.
So what will you make of your allotted one and only?

Do you even know?

I really don't think you have any idea.

I do

For mine and

I'll own everything, too.

I'd rather look back and say,

"I can't believe I did that."

My blessings,

My mistakes.


I will wager in pursuit of dreams.

Will you?

I wish on stars for many things,

For you.

And it's the same mistake

Over and over again.


33-333 words using the third definition:
Hollow: lacking in real value, sincerity, or substance: false, meaningless <hollow promises> <a victory over a weakling is hollow and without triumph - Ernest Beaglehole (who's he?)

Friday, November 27, 2015

There's Got to be a Morning After

I knew going into NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) that I would ultimately fail. Knowing this removed the stress. I didn’t post yesterday. Did you notice?

How was my Thanksgiving?

It was lovely. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’ve hosted it 26 times so I've got it down, which allows me to go into it relaxed and knowing I will have a wonderful day. I made time for the Rockettes as always. I even caught up on my TIVO a little (The Affair and Survivor if you were wondering.)

The word which comes to mind when I think of Thanksgiving is “teamwork”. I do the majority of the cooking, and I do so happily. I have a pretty good sous chef (the son), a really good “Hazel, the maid” (the hubby), a wonderful event day helper/server/bartender (the daughter), and the resident vacuum cleaner (the dog). It does help having grown children. Oh, and let’s not forget the charming guests (the extended family) and their contributions not limited to the food they brought. It also helped the Bears beat the Packers.

It takes a village to pull off a meaningful Thanksgiving. The food is just background noise no matter how much we love stuffing. The most important ingredients are the loving, generous, and kind people. Check.

P.S. The most generous gift I receive every holiday is my morning after “kitchen fairy” (I don’t know why, but I am instantly reminded of “There’s Got to be a Morning After”, The Poseidon Adventure (1972).). We usually don’t have energy to clean the whole kitchen at night mostly because the dishwasher is already brimmed full and running. By the time I wake up, like today, like every holiday, the kitchen is tidy, dishwasher emptied and reloaded, and the counters are sparkling. I love my “kitchen fairy”.

P.P.S. I went looking for the song. Listening gave me chills and visions of Shelley Winters swimming underwater in the stairwell.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Yeah Write Micro-stories: Weekend Warriors

Tipping his Stetson to a final sunset, Doc turned Betty towards Lost Valley to pack.

He slapped a tip envelope on the desk.
“Gotta fix some teeth so I can return.” [Wink]

Shouldering his duffel, he walked out to the waiting taxi.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Live in Chicago

And I'm sorry it is taking me time to process what's going on. I'm short on details, but that is not it. I guess I am mortified by the actions of human beings. We suck. It is old news, but Chicago is trying to understand something tonight. I'm just not sure how successfully we will handle it, and I'm more than sad about it. Scared, too. Sorry.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I Fell on the Ice Yesterday While Biking

I can’t seem to get off the couch today for more than a minute or two. Actually, the time it takes to go potty. Too much information? Sorry. Hey, at least you’re here. Therefore, I have something to admit.

I fell on a DIVVY bike yesterday. (If you don't know, DIVVYs are those blue bikes you see in cities that you rent to bike from destination to destination.)

In front of a lot of people.

How? Let me explain.

So we had our first winter storm in Chicago. It snowed/slushed/rained on Saturday. It was a frozen tundra by Sunday afternoon, and the perfect time, with wind chill in the teens, to catch a football game with a bunch of college boys. (Remember, we are Bears fans. It’s what we do. We lose, it is also what we do. Thanks, Jay. No wonder everyone drinks a lot of beer.)

After four quarters and a miserable loss, my face was almost as frozen as my toes. Getting home quickly seemed like the right idea. I told the twenty-somethings we were going to gut it out and go. So I’m pretty sure the bike rental was my idea.

It was crowded on museum campus with everyone leaving the game as the six of us got biked up. As soon I as made my first turn, I slid. First my left knee, then hip, then shoulder bounced off the ice glazed concrete. Did I mention it was crowded? 

I got up as quickly as it happened. 

“I’m FINE!” 

Biking is not easy in a puffy, long, down coat and snow boots. Scarves get tangled in handle bars. Gloved hands can’t shift gears. Whose bright idea was this anyway?

As insensitive as this sounds, I did find some joy and comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only one to fall. One of the boys did, too. He was probably more embarrassed than I was.

So here I lay bruised and battered. Hungry, too, with no energy to find sustenance. I’m feeling pretty pitiful right now.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Four Generations of Pasta Makers

(This post first appeared here three years ago today on my daughter's 22nd birthday. You do the math. (I have a baby who is a quarter century old! Okay, I did it for you. I was a Math major for a while, after all!))

There are a few threads of tradition that weave through four generations of women in my family. A few skipped a generation, like baking for instance, but my Grandma Theresa and my daughter held tightly to each of them.

My great grandmother taught my grandma to make pasta, which everyone in the Italian neighborhood did on Sundays. While my grandma didn’t carry on the tradition in exactly the same way, she shared her talent for pasta making with my mom and me.

As I crawled the floors of a Cicero three flat, Grandma Theresa and her daughter made ravioli for Easter or Christmas and sometimes just because “we had a taste for them”. When I was old enough, my job was the “forker” or sealing those pillow y bundles of delicate deliciousness. Mom was always surprised because grandma never let her in the kitchen to help.

My grandma had the world’s best Italian arms seemingly made for kneading dough. You know the kind... the big, jiggly ones. It wasn’t until I was in high school that grandma determined I had the stamina to partake in the kneading. It seemed like it took hours but in reality was probably only 30 minutes. It was extremely tiring.

As a young adult working and always trying to make ends meet, grandma would call and ask me to take her to the market. I knew what that meant. She was inviting me over to make a pasta feast for two. We always made cavatelli, meatballs, and a big salad. Dessert was inevitably orange or raspberry Jello and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I took leftovers in Tupperware home to my apartment which would last me days.

Twenty-two years ago today, another woman came into our world and it wasn’t too long before my daughter crawled on the floor of her great grandma’s apartment as three older generations kneaded, filled and forked ravioli. Homemade pasta was among the first solid foods my daughter ate.

Grandma Theresa passed away when Amanda was 3 1/2 years old but says she remembers her.

Today, three generations of women continue to make ravioli together several times a year. Not only because “we have a taste for it” but it’s a way to keep the spirit of a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother alive. 

So when my daughter invited her college friends to spend the night at our home yesterday to celebrate her 21st +1 birthday (a day early), she asked if they could make ravioli. She thought it would be fun and said she had a taste for it.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that someday I’ll be making pasta with my granddaughter (not too soon though, Amanda). And I hope for at least a few years, she’ll crawl on the floor while a great grandmother, grandmother and mother knead, fill and fork ravioli.

Happy birthday darling daughter.

You have grown into an exceptionally beautiful, intelligent, passionate, fun and kind woman of whom I am exceedingly proud.

(Who'd have known she'd be attending this university many years later and making awesome friends)

It’s open grid week over at Yeah Write. Please come over and join us for Thanksgiving week! You won’t be disappointed with anything you read over there, I promise!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Yeah Write Micro-stories: Attrition

To the forwarded reservation confirmation she replied, 

“Me, too. So excited.”

(Note: Exclamation marks missing from my response.)

The rub? A date is a date. Knowing this, she’ll make me explain why I’ve been avoiding her. That’s a tough one.

WWW.Wednesday: What Are You Reading on November 18th?

Yes!!! It’s back!

Most Wednesday do not pass me by without thinking about what I am reading. This is due to the book meme called WWW.Wednesday: What Are You Reading? I have missed it, and played along sometimes purely by myself. Thank you Taking on a World of Words for taking the reins and hosting us voracious readers. 

If you want to join in, go HERE and answer three questions:

What are you currently reading?

I am reading All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. It is fantastic. It is sad and heartbreaking. It is funny. The subject, however, is extremely tender. One sister wants to end her life, while the other is trying to keep her alive. Don’t let this brief description scare you off. It is a special story.

I am listening to A Bollywood Affair by Dev Sonali. I am also not afraid to admit that I love Bollywood movies. Hence my desire to check this book out. It is light, fluffy, fun, but definitely feels formulaic. It is in the romance genre, and if you know me, you know I don’t spend much time there. I probably won’t beyond this, but tune in next week to find out how it was by the end!

What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished a book of short stories called Excommunicados by Charles Haverty. I wrote about my feels in a previous post, but it has stuck with me. A Goodreads friend for whom I recommended this book wrote, “Gina, this book is superb so far. Haverty is teaching a master class on how to write a short story.” Um, yes, he is! After writing my last little review of it, I got the nicest note from the author. He said writing is like putting out a message in a bottle and you don’t know if anyone will ever find it. Something like that. I am thrilled to have found this collection. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!!!!!

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn because I had to. Because it’s a Gillian Flynn book. I liked it. It was a 64 page horror story essentially. It is in typical Flynn style. Creepy! Keeps you guessing. Unique. If you’re a Flynn fan, and/or love scary stories, do it! You will finish in about one hour.

What do you think you’ll read next?

It feels like the perfect time to curl up and cry with the not so little tome called A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. You know, with Thanksgiving next week and all. Might take a while to finish, but you’ll be the first to know.

There you have it! What’s up in your reading world these days???

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Than One Way to Look at Things

I don’t know about you, but I have very little idle time to purely think. It doesn’t drive me to feelings of panic, but I do find some discomfort in it. Like everyone, I sneak deep thought in in-between everything else that is pressing and distracting and occupying my time. At times, I feel cut short. 

That is unless I am underwater, which I routinely am. Aside from recreational diving like when I am at work, I can only really let my mind do what it does best if I am performing a mundane task like cleaning. Don’t know about you, but it’s very rare anymore that I can do anything mindlessly. Where the outside world can't find me. The opportunity to clear the mind and think about nothing, or to ponder a problem. Whatever. 

That’s why I like the early part of my Tuesday mornings. Today. I scrub the inside of a large exhibit tank filled to the brim with pre-historic looking fish (If you watch River Monsters on Discovery Channel, those are the big fish I mean). Really cool, but virtually robotic work. It’s just me, a scrub brush, and some elbow grease for a whole hour. Sometimes I get to catch out a couple of turtles though that’s not the norm but I got to today.
Some mornings I wake up with something already on my mind. Other times, like today, I’ve barely had enough coffee to think straight before I am submerged.

Today was a halfsy. Stuff on my mind, and not fully awake enough to string together anything that made sense (Keep in mind I am in the tank around 6:45 a.m., which is about 40 minutes from the time my alarm goes off.). The water was particularly cold, and I felt a little discombobulated. 

I worked my way up, down and across the pitted exhibit wall covered with a moderate amount of algae due to the lack of strong sunlight at this time of year. My technique is to move along in one direction then cross back over the same area from the opposite side. That way I can see everything from a different angle, in a different light, and notice what I’ve missed because I always miss something.

Then the lightbulb went off (No, it really did.)

This way of looking at something as routine as my Tuesday morning cleaning project from several, or at least two, different angles has application outside of scrubbing an exhibit tank!

I truly comprehend there are two sides to every story. Differing perspectives. I notice the gray. But, being human, I am continually a work-in-progress.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Freezing Chocolate Birthday Presents

For my husband’s birthday a few weeks ago, I gave him a chocolate bar among other things. It was very large, and made of high quality ingredients. Like ordering the best burger with your favorite fixing and fries then saying super-size it please. 

It sat on the center island for a few days. I stared at it every time I passed by.

“Aren’t you going to taste it?”

“Nah, not now.”

“Want me to put it in the freezer?” (Where we keep all the household chocolate because, in my opinion, chocolate tastes better frozen. Hmmm, I wonder if he feels the same way? [shrugs shoulders] Never asked.)

As I said, this was three weeks ago. Since then there hasn’t been a time I’ve passed the freezer without thinking about it being on the top rack under the Malted Milk Balls. Anyone can see it if they look around a bit. Okay, it is hidden.

He’s never asked about it since, and he goes into the freezer every night for grapes. Because he’s good. Though probably he can’t see it on the shelf where I put it. I wonder if he’s forgotten about it?

I kind of hope so because as of a few moments ago, there’s only about one tenth of that part of his birthday present left.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Need to Stop Traveling AKA This World is a Scary Place

This year, I had the good fortune to visit two beautiful countries. Their cultures, religions, topography, everything couldn't be any more polar opposite. Though both stunning.

I bounced down the pothole laden runway of Kathmandu, Nepal on March 25th, leaving those gorgeous people behind. And April 25th left them in rubble with thousands upon thousands covered by it.

On October 26th, my husband literally had to drag me out of Paris because I had fallen in love. With Paris. Today, I'm happy I was not there.

Sometimes you can wrap your head around the occurrence of a natural disaster. It makes more sense. What happened in Paris? This does not make one bit of sense. To me. Not at all.

My friends called and asked me to stop traveling. My track record is currently two for two. Just this year.

Please join me in praying for the people and families who have lost so much, especially in Paris. Today.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

You Made an Ass Out of Me: Yeah Write Microstories

I heaved it effortlessly; 
children playing catch. 
You turned it around lackadaisically 
while I looked away. Seeing us.
Trusting, happily distracted, and assuming 
you had it. But you were reckless.
Together, we watched it shatter.
I’m right where I started.
Fooled and

Monday, November 9, 2015

This is Not a Post

So this is where I need to cut myself some slack. I'm on the couch. Under a blankie. Thinking. That's all I want to do. Maybe read.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Let It Be

I went to a Catholic high school. Uniforms everyday. Mass, almost as often.

I liked going to Mass. The ritual felt comforting to me.

During Mass, we always sang “Let It Be” by The Beatles. I loved that song then. I love it still. Can’t remember the last time I heard it, but it came on the radio today as we were driving. 

Poignant. Poignant because we are losing someone special probably tomorrow. And I haven’t heard the song in so long. It was incredibly appropriate for my heart.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Ah, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Oh, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

The Beatles

I have prayed to Mother Mary at important times in my life. She is my “go to Girl" in times of dire need. I truly believe she hears me. I prayed to her today. I need her.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

On Writing: A Good Question With A Great Answer

(This post first appeared on the blog one year ago today. I still think about this when I begin each and every post, and if you noticed, I deleted part of my post from yesterday.)
The extremely talented writer, Gillian Flynn, answered the following question today on Goodreads.

"When you write something like Gone Girl, or Sharp Objects, are you afraid of hurting your husband's or your mom's feelings with the things you say about those relationships that, granted, are not necessarily autobiographical, but that may contain half-truths drawn from real life? How do you handle that kind of situation?"

Gillian's response:

“Great question. I've learned that you can't worry and write at the same time. If you let yourself go down that road, then what you do (and believe me, I've done this) is write with a little nagging angel on your shoulder, who's wringing her hands and worrying that people might get upset. It's not a good way to write well. So I put everyone out of my head and write the story I need to write. Then I have a very important and useful conversation with those close to me. For instance, the mother in Sharp Objects is nothing like my mom and my husband and I are nothing like the Dunnes, but I think it's completely viable for them to ask me any questions they'd like—and I certainly want to know if they feel I've mined something unfairly from our relationships. (I try very hard to avoid the autobiographical, and if a character starts feeling too much like someone I know in real life, I take that as a sign I'm being lazy.) Thankfully I happen to be blessed with friends and family and a husband who love books and love that I'm a writer and respect that my imagination can take me to some very unsavory places that have nothing to do with them.”

I love her answer. It is something I have thought about, and still struggle with, every time I write anything. What will someone else think? Will they somehow see themselves in my tale? I have had to remind people that a piece is FICTION several times. 

Do you ever think about the impact your writing may have on your relationships when you put fictional, or even non-fictional, words to paper?