Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Because it sure is surreal sometimes

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving: No Pressure

For as long as I’ve known my husband, which is 11 years, I’ve known that Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. I know this because our souls are deeply, almost cosmically connected, and because every year about this time, I overhear him tell someone, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.”

I’ve always just assumed it was because of the food. But this year, I decided to find out what was so special about it (to him) that it causes the year-on-year giddiness. I finally asked the other day, when he got home from work (school) and said this:

“I told my class today that my favorite holiday was almost here and they wanted to know why.”

“So do I. Why is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday?”

“Because there’s no pressure.”

I immediately performed a mental inventory of high-pressure holidays. I came up with one: Christmas. For me, Christmas is wrapped in an enormous amount of pressure: satisfying the children’s wish lists; visiting relatives; obeying the budget; pretending that I like to bake cookies; dodging the Jesus bullet. As I broke out in a cold sweat just thinking about the Polar Express bearing down on me in one month, my husband expanded on his answer. I should have known it would include his favorite F-words.

“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because all you have to do is show up, watch football and eat food.”

That made sense. I didn’t have to ask him about Christmas—the multi-chambered vortex of yuletide pressure is just too obvious, with one exception: Baking cookies is his thing.

So then I started wondering what sort of pressure load the other holidays might be bearing on him.

“The 4th of July?”

“It’s a lot of pressure to find a red, white and blue shirt! And sometimes I forget to get the flag out.”

I realized he had spent a considerable amount of time thinking this through. I delved further.


“Doorbell…Barking dog…Calories!”

“Valentine’s Day?”

“Expensive Hallmark card, planning the perfect date.”

“St. Patrick’s Day?”

“Getting to the pub at 6 a.m. for green beer!”

“When is the last time you felt compelled to do that?”


“Anything else? What about New Year’s Eve?”

“New Year’s Eve! Tons of pressure! What party am I going to? Who is going to drive me? How am I going to stay awake until midnight?”

“We usually just stay home with the children on New Year’s Eve.”

“Exactly! Why don’t I get invited to any parties?!”

With that, I decided that 2015 would be the year of no-pressure holidays for our household. I thought I’d get a running start by cancelling Christmas, 2014, and instead plan a trip to Disneyland. After a quick visit to, I realized that the Most Expensive Place on Earth is no place to relieve any pressure whatsoever. Determined to get started with my “No Pressure in 2015” plan, I told all four kids they could invite a friend over on New Year’s Eve. With four teenagers, life has become all about ticking one more opportunity for disaster off the list, one day at a time, and New Year’s Eve is a big tick! Keep ‘em home and keep track of them is what I say.

Moving on, Valentine’s Day will be easy: I’ll just pick a fight with my husband the day before and we’ll call it good. St. Patrick’s Day: It’s on a Tuesday in 2015. Who drinks on a Tuesday? Don’t answer that.

Just when I thought I had spring in the bag, a sickening feeling crept into my gut: Easter. Every year, my moral stance (and normal habit) of only buying organic eggs in protest of commercial poultry farming practices dissolves in the face of buying four dozen of those expensive suckers all at once. But those poor Foster Farms chickens! Which brings us to Mother’s Day. Brunch or Dinner? In-laws or immediate family only? Is it OK to actually let one’s mother pick up the check on Mother’s Day? What if she insists? My husband is right!

I have to give it to my husband on this one: Thanksgiving is where it’s at, if for no other reason that what it doesn’t bring to the table: pressure. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thank You, Teenagers (This is not a paid advertisement.)

So far this November, I’m thankful that Facebook (at least on my newsfeed) hasn’t been deluged with that tiresome habit of people posting one new thing every day that they are thankful for. My eyes were sore from rolling them last year. I finally stopped reading when I saw, “I’m thankful for the love of my turtle.” Say what? Your turtle loves you? But even the obvious thank-you posts, like “I’m thankful for the love of my children” or “I’m thankful for clean air to breathe” get a little old.

I’m not suggesting that we should not be grateful for things like love and breathable oxygen, I’m just saying this: Can’t we dig a little deeper? Not in importance, because what is more important than love and air? (Well, perhaps an unwatched episode of Real Housewives of Beverley Hills on our DVR.) I mean, not even one nod to Facebook? Not once have I ever seen an honest Facebook appreciation  post, like, “I’m thankful for the opportunity to be friends with people I actually thought were dead” or “I’m thankful for having an outlet to broadcast passive-aggressive insults thinly disguised as compliments.”

So I’m borrowing a page from late-night show host Jimmy Fallon, the man who has single-handedly resurrected the lost art of thank-you note writing, and dedicating this pre-Thanksgiving column to my four teenagers. It’s not in cursive, on a notecard, but it still counts. Here we go:

Thank you, teenagers, for standing in the kitchen and saying, “Can I make…” and not “Will you make me…” I don’t even care it it’s healthy; I only care that I’m not being asked to do it for you. For the record, if you were to say, “Can we make deep-fried hot dogs for an afterschool snack?” I’d say yes. And then if you said, “But can we make deep-fried hot dogs using our dog?” you’d still get a yes as long as you can do it without my assistance.

Thank you, teenagers, for being old enough to wash the car, pick up your shoes, socks, backpack and the dog’s poop. You are physically capable, and so I’ll let you, just like I let you use the ladder to get to the top of the playground slide once you were able to do that. Doing it yourself made us both happy then, and it makes us both happy now.

Thank you, teenagers, for occasionally not being able to stand the sight of me, or hear the sound of my voice. The feeling is mutual. I realize this is a natural stage of adolescence, and the level of disgust you feel just being in my general vicinity is evidence of your emerging sense of independence and vital to your survival and successful navigation of the world you’ll be slogging through by yourself in just a few short years. Feel the urge to storm out of the room in a huff? I’m especially thankful for that. Knock over my wine, and you’re dead.

Thank you, teenagers, for each smelling uniquely different, which allows me to identify the owner of random articles of clothing I find around the house. If it’s a sweatshirt smelling of strawberry fields deodorant wrapped in peach blossom bodyspray, cloaked in honeysuckle-rose room freshener, I know exactly who it belongs to. We’ll leave it at that.

Thank you, teenagers, for being old enough to form your own opinions and follow your heart. But the day I catch you watching Fox news or dating a guy with giant fake bull testicles hanging from his bumper, we will be having a talk.

Thank you, teenagers, for not a single one of you insisting I go to 6th grade science camp. It may have been because you knew I wasn’t sciency, or it may have been your emerging sense of independence. Whatever the reason, thank you for not making me prove to your dad that I could go four days without wine.

Happy Thanksgiving, teenagers, for giving me so many things to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ironic Reactions and Ravioli Season

I’ve noticed lately that when I read certain stories in the news, my first reaction isn’t always…typical. In fact, I guess it could be called ironic. Like, for instance, the other day I read a story about a dad who kidnapped his 9-year old son in Seattle instead of returning him to his ex-wife, and then sailed away for a tiny atoll off the coast of New Zealand.

As I read the story, I thought, “Some people get all the luck.” (Note: The kid was eventually found unharmed and having a great time.)

That story reminded me of another ironic-ish reaction I had recently. My ex-husband told me that he wanted to get passports made for our kids. Later, I mentioned it to a friend.

“My ex wants to get passports made for the kids.”

“Oh, ok. How come?”

It then occurred to me that I hadn’t asked my ex what his intentions were.

“Not sure. Hopefully he’ll kidnap them.”

T-minus 12 Days to T-Day
My yard is full of turkeys this time of year. I keep telling my kids to come in and get out of the cold, but they never listen. They’re teenagers. My yard also has hens now, thanks to four little ladies we adopted recently. We are all waiting patiently for eggs (well, except for my husband, who was against the idea of having chickens for years, until the moment we got them, when he began calling them “my chickens”). He can’t wait for the day he can fetch an egg and cook it up for his breakfast. On the bright side, at least I’ve finally figured out the answer to the age old question, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Speaking of turkeys, we’re at my parents’ house for Thanksgiveit this year, which means the day will be steeped in tradition, including setting the table three days prior, and homemade ravioli with Italian gravy the day of. Other traditions include unsuccessfully avoiding political discussions and never, ever running out of wine.

My mom makes hundreds of ravioli this time of year and freezes them, to get the family through ravioli season. We’ll also have pumpkin pie made from my Great-grandmother Boitano’s recipe, with its super-secret ingredient (brandy). I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie. To me, it tastes like brandy-laced baby food, and I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that to brandy. I also don’t care for turkey, no matter how perfectly it’s cooked. I typically eat just a few bites strictly for its protein properties, drench it in gravy, and load up on my favorites: potatoes, stuffing, and ravs. Oh, another tradition: certain family members judging other family members for the amount of food on their plate. Before you assume that we shame fat people at our table, kindly recall one important detail: We’re Italian. At our dinner table, if you don’t sit down with a mountain range of food on your plate, or god forbid pass on a second helping the size of a Volkswagen, or shun dessert, you will be treated to a delightful interrogation game I like to call, “Whatsa matter with you?” It goes like this, and it happens as the offender tries to slide into his or her seat at the dinner table, unnoticed:

“Is that all you’re eating?”

“Um, yeah.”

“How come? You on a diet?”

“No. Because that’s how much fits in my stomach.”


Then, fifteen minutes later, it’s the Lightning Round:

“I guess you’re done eating.”


“What’s the matter? You afraid you’ll get fat?”


“Boy, wish I had your willpower.”

“It has nothing to do with willpower. I stop eating when I’m full.”

The stare I get back is so blank, so devoid of any understanding of what I’ve just said, it’s as if I’ve suggested that we engage in a new Thanksgiving tradition consisting of spraying gravy and whipped cream around the room and throwing the plates in the garbage instead of washing them.

At the end of a nice evening, we all end up disgustingly full of something, whether it’s food, wine, dessert or hot air, which, after all, is the American way.