Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Life Lessons

What’s Cooking?

My office recently held its annual “pot luck lunch” which should’ve been called the “no luck lunch.”  The Tupperware and CorningWare were sorely outnumbered by the bakery boxes and other pre-packaged, store-bought items.  In fact, there were so few homemade dishes that the office manager, fearing there was not enough food to go around, ordered in several trays of salad, sides, and main dishes from a nearby restaurant.  Having said that, my officemate’s Tupperware and my CorningWare were present and accounted for on that big conference table.

While I understand that not everyone has the cooking gene, still, it was disappointing to see that there were so few cooks in the group.  After all, the plethora of cooking shows on cable television would have you believe that everyone is in the kitchen whipping up either a weekend feast or a quick “Tuesday through Thursday night” one-pot meal.

A common complaint I hear is that there’s no time to cook.  Yet my officemate – a mother of two, who doesn’t have a dishwasher – found the time to cook.   And despite my daily three-hours of commuting, so did I.

Have you ever heard a woman say, “Oh, I don’t cook,” with a nuanced tone, or a subtle hand gesture that implies she thinks that cooking is trivial or demeaning?  While it’s her prerogative to feel that way, and her choice whether or not to cook, it troubles me that the remark makes those of us who do cook feel as if our culinary endeavors lack value.  After all, isn’t cooking the most gracious form of hospitality?

As for me, after a stressful day, nothing relaxes me more than going into my kitchen.   Mia cucina.  That time is sacred to me.  The moment I start chopping some vegetables, or sink my hands into a bowl full of flour and butter…well, I become transformed.  Besides, cooking is not only a great stress-buster – you end up with something to show for your efforts.  Something tangible.  Something nourishing.  Something delicious.

Two days after the office pot luck, my officemate’s son informed her that he’d signed her up to help with a school bake sale.  She had two days in which to bake four dozen cupcakes.   I loaned her one of my muffin tins so she could do two batches at a time.

So, here’s a message to all my fellow cooks:  Cooking is both a skill and an art.  It doesn’t make you seem old-fashioned, or any less a feminist.  What you do matters – and it is appreciated.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Inked

The following is a re-post from October 2016.

When I was a kid, it seemed like the only people with tattoos were guys who’d been in the military or who rode motorcycles.  Getting tattooed is painful and it proved these guys were strong, tough, cool.  In other words – badass.

Once in a great while, I’d see a woman with a tattoo but it was usually a dainty little red rose on her ankle or shoulder.  Still, I never considered doing it myself.  For one thing, I didn’t feel strongly enough about anything to have it branded into my skin.  Then there was the pain factor.   And a badass?  Definitely not me.

But getting tattooed has become so commonplace that it hardly seems the act of courage or rebellion it once was.  These days, it’s more about artistic expression and individualism. That being said, getting tattooed remains a painful endeavor and, you have to be gutsy to let that needle go at your skin.

Full disclosure here: I got inked.

Like far too many women, first I was cut.  Next, pumped full of poison.  Then came the tatts, and finally they nuked me.  I guess that makes me a badass after all.

You see, my tatts are radiation markers.  I am a breast cancer survivor with four small permanent black dots on my chest.  But I’m also a hockey enthusiast, a devoted Boston Bruins fan, so I choose to think of my tatts as small hockey pucks.  Four little pucks in honor of the greatest hockey player that ever was: Number Four – Bobby Orr!

It’s October.  Hockey season started last week and my Bruins are back on the ice.  It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Have you scheduled your mammogram?

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Life Lessons

The Party’s Over

Every store I enter is jam-packed with back-to-school supplies.  Although the temperature remains toasty, we are losing daylight at an alarming rate, and the leisurely weeknight barbeques of July have become a race against time to finish before it’s too dark to see what you’re eating.  Labor Day weekend has passed – the party’s officially over.

For children everywhere, September brings the promise of starting over – the new school year literally offers a blank page in a brand-new notebook.  Yet, despite being a good student, I never felt that excitement about going back to school.  Instead, I experienced a mix of equal parts melancholy and anxiety.  The night before the first day of school, my clothing and supplies all laid out, I would go to bed early but have trouble falling asleep. “The party’s over…it’s time to go back to school.”

I never minded the actual school work – it was the getting up so early and the restrictive structure of the Monday-through-Friday routine that was the problem.  See the irony here?  What I didn’t like about school is exactly what most of the workforce, myself included, complain about on a daily basis.

A friend of mine talks about having the “Sunday night blues.”  She says it coincides with the television show “60 Minutes.”  The moment she sees the stopwatch and hears the ticking sound of the passage of time, she becomes angst-ridden.  I don’t watch “60 Minutes,” but the emotions I experienced the night before the first day of school remain so vivid, and continue to rise up in me every Sunday night.

Nothing can compare to the carefree feeling of the childhood summer vacation.  As working adults, we take off for a week or two in summer to recharge our batteries.  But the bottom line: whether you’re a kid going back to school or a working adult, vacation is fleeting.

As my friends and co-workers talk about getting their children ready to go back to school, I can’t shake the image of school supplies, and I remember the black and white composition books of my own school days.  It suddenly seems that it’s not so much about the first day of school, or about mourning the end of summer, or even about the daily grind, as it is about the chance to start over, fresh.  It’s about that blank page in a brand-new notebook.

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Life Lessons

Give Me a Ring

Give me a ring, okay?  No, not that kind of ring!  I’m not looking for bling, or a proposal.  I just want to talk – have a convo – a good, old-fashioned phone call.  Remember those?

As a teenager, I holed up in my bedroom after dinner, chatting on the phone with my friends, even though I’d seen them all day at school.  During college, the frequent calls with my family helped to ease the miles apart.  The giddy calls with boyfriends – “you hang up first,” “no you hang up first” – and the angst-filled conversations with would-be-could-be-might-be-boyfriends were something else.  Over the years, I’ve treasured the out-of-the-blue calls from far-away friends and favorite cousins I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like.  Whenever I place a call that I know will brighten someone else’s day, it gives me a lift, too.

Clearly, the e-mail and the text message have changed the way we communicate and those “the phone’s just been ringing off the hook!” days seem gone forever.  I don’t have anything against emailing or texting.  Each has merit.  The email can relay a large chunk of information quickly, and seamlessly.  And nothing beats a text when you’re running late to meet someone and you need to let them know.

But this past week, I got on the phone.

First, I placed a long-distance call to an old college friend. He and I caught up and reminisced, and an hour went by in a flash.  Then, a long-overdue call to a friend who lives only a few miles away but whose demanding work life, like mine, has limited her leisure time.  Our talk was validating and restorative.  And finally, I checked in on a friend I haven’t seen in nearly a year but who’s been on my mind lately.  When she shared with me the sad news that her father recently passed away, I tried to offer comfort, and wished I’d called sooner.

Remember that old television commercial for the phone company?  The tag line was “reach out and touch someone.”  I used to think it was corny.  Now, not so much.

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Life Lessons

How’m I Doing?

One of the last things I do every night is take inventory.  It only takes a minute or two to ask myself, “How’m I doing?” I don’t actually use those words.  Rather, I think about my family and friends, and my place in their lives.  I consider my responsibilities.  My goals and my dreams.  Is this self-awareness?  If it is, then it’s both a blessing and a curse as I ask myself the important questions:

Was I a good daughter today?  A good sister?  A good friend?

Was I a good worker today?  A good neighbor?

Was I a good Catholic today?

Was I a good writer?

Was I good to myself?

On any given day, I fall short on more than one of these.  But it’s not for lack of trying.

Yesterday I helped a blind man in the subway – did that make me a good Catholic or a good neighbor?  I also worked late which made me a good worker.  But I missed dinner with my brother so I can’t say I was a good sister.

Over the weekend, I carved out some time for writing.  But a friend needed to talk and a lengthy long-distance phone call ensued. That made me a good friend.  But you can’t be a good writer if you don’t actually write.  Still, I think about other friends who’ve sent emails I have not answered, or kindly written comments to my blog posts that I’ve yet to acknowledge and post.  So am I a good friend, really?

The one that troubles me most is “was I a good daughter?”  For years, I took an April vacation and went home for a week.  My mother’s birthday falls in April, and my visit is the only present she wants.  But these past two Aprils I didn’t give her that gift, despite having ample vacation time.  Work conditions just did not permit it.  So I was a good worker, but I cannot say I was a good daughter.

Someone close to me who knows about my nightly reflection tells me I’m being too hard on myself.  Am I?  Or am I just being honest?

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Life Lessons

Daddy’s Little Girl…And Boy

Last month, I told a story about the robin’s nest on my front porch.  An expectant robin redbreast was waiting for her babies to hatch, and I, watching from my living room window, waited right along with her.  Initially, she was skittish and flew away whenever I approached.  Later, she barely budged from the nest.  I knew the baby birds would be coming soon.

What I hadn’t expected, but was delighted to see, was the arrival of a male robin in that crowded little nest.  He was tall and slim, his breast a more vivid shade of red than that of the female robin.  As she sat with the eggs, he flew back and forth, always returning with worms – yes worms.

I frequently checked on the birds and soon found the female robin still as can be, alone in the nest.  Or so I thought.  Much to my delight, I spotted two tiny hairless heads peering out of the nest.  The babies had hatched!  I imagined that perhaps one might be a girl, the other a boy.

The next day, the female robin was gone.  Poor thing, she must have been exhausted.  Was she at the bird spa, getting a massage and gorging herself on worms?  Now the male robin had taken her place, carefully tending to his offsprings.  I remained transfixed watching as the dad robin carefully placed a worm into the outstretched beak of one of the babies.  He was a good provider.  As he continued to feed the babies, I tried in vain to take a good picture of this amazing paternal display but it was not such an easy thing to capture.  It seemed no coincidence to me that the dad had arrived, had stepped in as caregiver to the fragile baby birds, just in time for Father’s Day.

A friend who knows a great deal about birds described what would happen when the baby birds were ready to fly.  They would step out of the nest and on to the solid wooden ledge and flap their wings.  Flap, flap, flap, but they would hesitate to take the plunge.  They would continue to do this, in the same way that a beginner swimmer stands by the edge of the pool. Then, when the birds felt ready, they would flap, flap, flap and take off into flight.  I couldn’t wait to witness this.

The nest has been empty for several days now.  No mother, no father, no babies.  It would appear they’ve gotten out of Dodge.

Even though I didn’t get to see the babies fly for the first time, I know they did.  Because when a father provides for his daughter and son, like my dad did for our family, the kids grow up and go out on their own.  The healthy ones fly out of the nest.

To all the great dads – and especially to my dad – Happy Father’s Day.

XOXOXO

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Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Life Lessons

S.O.S.

It was supposed to be a quiet night with no plans, no obligations, and no work the next day. Because of my bathroom reno, I was staying at my brother’s place, and he was away for the weekend.  It was the ideal time for a relaxing, indulgent night-o-beauty.  The stage was set: charcoal mask treatment for my face, lavender scented Epsom salt for a soak in the tub, and all the implements needed for a professional-style mani-pedi were neatly arranged on the bathroom countertop.  Draw the bath and cue up Enya’s “Paint the Sky with Stars,” for I had created the perfect home spa!

Then something went terribly wrong…

I cut my foot using the type of callus remover that looks like a miniature cheese slicer.  At first I didn’t realize how deep the blade went, all I felt was a stinging sensation.  But a moment later, my foot was bloody.  I grabbed a wad of tissues and reached for the Band-Aids.  When that didn’t work, I stuck my foot back in the tub, under running water, and soon enough the bathtub looked like the shower scene in the movie “Psycho.”  I tried to save my brother’s gleaming white bathroom: watch out for the shower curtain, protect the grout, don’t ruin any of the good towels…  I didn’t comprehend the severity of my injury until 45 minutes had passed, the bathroom was in shambles, and I still couldn’t control the bleeding.  It was after midnight on a Saturday night, and I was home alone, stranded with no mode of transportation to get to a medical facility.   I can’t do this by myself – I need help.  I picked up the phone and called 911.

Within moments, my doorbell rang and two Emergency Service providers were lifting me onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.  I’d never been in an ambulance before, nor called upon a first responder for help of any kind.  The young man and woman who came to my aid wrapped my foot more securely, checked my vitals, and kept me calm during the long ride to the hospital.

I thought all I needed was a hand – for my foot – but they treated my injury with the same level of care afforded a life-and-death situation.  First responders are real-life super heroes who work in the most difficult circumstances, at warp speed, on a daily basis.  When they dropped me off at the hospital, I thanked them, but it hardly seemed enough.  It’s been two months since that night, and my foot has completely healed.  I wish I could remember the names of my super heroes so I could thank them again.

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