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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Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

NESTING

At first, I thought the debris strewn all over my front porch came from the gutters, after a soaking spring rain, so I gathered it up and threw it in the trash.  But when more debris mysteriously reappeared the next day, it dawned on me that the mess was the building materials for a bird’s nest.  This time, I left it alone.

My own building project – total kitchen and bathroom reno – was finally completed and, over the weekend, as I was busily putting my own nest back in order, I kept watch from my living room windows as a robin redbreast built her home on one of my porch pillars.

She’s not a very good housekeeper, I thought, as the unruly nest began to take shape.  There was a bit of masking tape and paper weaved into the structure.  They use whatever they can find…  And the nest wasn’t the perfect little basket I imagined, as much of the dried twigs and loose grasses spilled down the pillar.

Once she took up residence, I felt compelled to keep tabs on the expectant mother.  I felt guilty that I’d thrown away her initial attempt at building the nest.  Each time I entered or exited my front door, she grew skittish and quickly flew away, only to return minutes later.  Now my movements are tentative, and I’m careful with the door.  I feel protective of her and of the tiny blue eggs I imagine beneath her.

That robin might not be the impeccable housekeeper that my mom has always been – that she has taught me to be – but she’s guarding those fragile eggs with the fiercest maternal instinct.  With Mother’s Day coming, that little bird has me thinking about what it means to be a good mother.  It doesn’t matter how neat the house is, or if a mom – especially a harried, working mom – gives her kids PBJ’s for dinner.  A good mother gives of her time, she nurtures, and she puts her children’s needs before her own.  Her love is boundless.

To all the moms – and especially to my mom – Happy Mother’s Day.

You are truly amazing!  XOXOXO

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Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Home Improvements, Life Lessons

Gut Reaction

As news of my reno (which is HGTV lingo for renovation) spreads through my circle of friends and co-workers, everyone who’s ever undertaken a home improvement project has a tale to tell.  There are stories of busted water pipes and runaway contractors, damaged cabinets and monumental delays.  Considering I’m doing a total gut job on my kitchen and bathroom, this is not the kind of stuff I want to hear.

I’ve learned that “if all goes well” is code for “expect something unexpected to go wrong.”  And when dealing with vendors, apply this simple mathematical calculation: double all the numbers.  This means if you’re told your supplies will be delivered in 4 to 6 weeks, they will actually arrive in 8 to 12 weeks.  Unfortunately, the same mathematical equation applies whenever costs are being calculated.  Then, in an attempt to calm my ever-growing anxiety, these same well-intentioned friends smile as they finish their litanies with “…but in the end, it was all worth it.”

Seriously?

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll be spending a month of Sundays (or Saturdays) at the cavernous brick and mortar store where everything smells like wood shavings and plaster.  Don’t show me twenty faucets, I beg.  Just show me three, and I will pick one!  As I wander, dazed and confused, like Alice in Wonderland, down aisles 9 and 10 in search of the perfect ceiling light fixture, my friends’ advice echoes in my head…

Get the towel warmer for your bathroom – it’s worth it.

Install ceiling fans in the kitchen, living room – and the bedrooms.

If you don’t get under-the-cabinet lighting in your kitchen, you’ll be sorry.

Choose what you like, not what you think some imaginary, future home buyer might want.

The paint color of the year is blush.

The paint color of the year is gray.

Gray is passé, the paint color of the year is green.

Luckily, I have a prince of a contractor who arrives every morning with a jumbo iced coffee and a cheery smile.  It only took him a couple of days to gut my kitchen and, each night when I return home, I’m delighted to see the day’s accomplishments as he rebuilds my dream kitchen from the rubble.  He – and I – can’t wait for him to get started on the bathroom…

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Buy Yourself Jewelry

The following is a re-post from February 2016.

Valentine’s Day holds the promise of hearts and flowers. But some of you married gals might have the kind of husband who’s not so good at remembering these things.  And what about the single girls who don’t have a boyfriend at the moment?  Why should they get gypped?

My advice?  Buy yourself jewelry.  It’s even better than going to the day spa.  I’m not suggesting you do anything crazy.  No Colombian emeralds or black Tahitian pearls.  You don’t need to buy the kind of loot you find in the Jewelers’ Building, with the able assistance of some older gentleman in a custom tailored suit and half glasses, who calls you “Miss” and, jeweler’s loupe at the ready, offers you a free appraisal of whatever happens to be hanging from your earlobes or dangling from your wrist that day.

A quick drive to the mall is all it takes to find something sparkly.  Even better, you can sit on your sofa with a glass of Red in one hand and the remote in the other and find some pretty serious bling on the shopping channels.  Or simply go on line to find your new bauble.  Remember, you’re not out to find the Hope Diamond here.  Just a pair of garnet studs.  Or an amethyst ring.

I’ve been buying my own jewelry for a while.  Some women like to travel – I’d rather buy gemstones set in precious metals.  For me, it’s one of the benefits of being a single woman in the twenty-first century.  You see, the jewelry is much more than a mere indulgence.  It’s a symbol.  To empower you.  And to remind you of your worth.  Sure it’s nice when a loved one buys you jewelry.  All I’m saying is that the loved one can be yourself.

red poppy

 

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Wonder Women

Girl Power has created a whole generation of wonder women.  And I am grateful that so many of these ladies have had my back in times of crisis or as I was navigating a major life event.

I didn’t plan it that way.  It just sort of happened.

It started with the medical profession.  When my primary care physician was retiring, the doctor coming in as replacement was a young woman, just starting out.  I was told she was “good with women’s issues.”  She wasn’t just good, she was great.  Over the years, she referred me to a female ob-gyn, and a female surgeon who, in turn, recommended a female oncologist. When it was time to pick an eye doctor and I could’ve gone with the stern-looking older gentleman with the bow-tie, or the gal who was my age and dressed in smart Talbots separates, who do you think I chose?  And yes, my dentist is also a woman.  The bottom-line: I am healthy today because of the collective skill, smarts, and compassion of all these women.

Now let’s talk money.  After working with several young, fast-talking male financial advisors who left me confused and skittish about stocks and annuities, I got lucky and luck was a lady. My new financial advisor, a single woman like me, finally demystified the whole investing process and gave me confidence to boot.  Recently, I chose a well-known and successful Boston realtor – then a family member recommended an excellent real estate attorney, who in turn connected me with an accountant.  All three of these professionals are women and their collective acumen helped me move from a small condo to a house of my own.

I hope all this doesn’t sound like I’m anti-man.  Believe me, I like ‘em and I’m still hoping to marry one someday.  All I’m saying is that there’s a profound truth in that familiar quote about the iconic dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  She did everything he did, only backwards and in high heels.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons

Hear the Angel Voices

“Are you ready?” friends kept asking.  And it was starting to vex me.  Ordinarily, I would be ready.  But with a week left before Christmas, there were cards not yet written and cookies still to be baked.  Moving in November had really messed with my holiday preparations this year.

When a dear friend invited me to her son’s Christmas concert the final Sunday before Christmas, the left side of my brain flatly rejected the notion.  I had too much to do to spend a whole afternoon at a concert.  But the right side of my brain which, for southpaws like me, runs the show had me blurting out, “Sounds like fun – I’m all in.”

Intuitively, I knew I needed some Christmas spirit.  And an afternoon of Christmas carols sounded like just the thing.  But as I traveled the long, convoluted train ride to Dorchester I wondered if my time might have been better spent preparing for the holiday.  I was behind and still had so much to do before Christmas.

The concert was held in a beautiful old Catholic church with magnificent jewel-tone stained glass windows and majestic statuary.  Even thought I had not been there before, I felt welcomed amidst all the familiar symbols of my faith.

Shards of late afternoon sunlight streamed through the stained-glass windows, and I settled into my seat in the crowded church pew.  The young singers and musicians were middle- and high-school aged and they represented four different Boston choirs and musical ensembles.  As they gathered on the steps of the altar, I couldn’t help but notice that these youngsters were a diverse group – in age, in height, in ethnicity, each one beautiful and perfect in his or her own way.  I knew by reputation that they were talented and the moment they began to sing, their pure, sweet voices touched my heart.  This, I thought, is what angel voices must sound like.  A peace I had not felt for some time came over me.  Yes, I thought, I am ready.  I am ready for Christmas.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons, The Brownstone

Opening a Door

All of my artwork has been removed from the walls, and I stand in a pared-down version of my living room, knee-deep in bubble wrap and packing tape.  Tomorrow when the moving truck comes, I’ll be leaving my home of the past 24 years.  This small brownstone apartment has been a haven for me, as well as a source of pride.

Built in 1888, my condo is rich with Victorian details, from the wainscoting and ornamental fireplace mantle, to the ceiling medallion in the living room.  A young woman has bought my place.  My realtor tells me she fell madly in love the moment she walked into the living room, awash in sunlight from the large curved bay window that overlooks Beacon Street.  The new owner is me, twenty-five years ago, and I am grateful that someone who loves this space, just as I have, will be living here.  To you, my younger self, who is about to cross this threshold with all your hopes and dreams, I say this:  each time you make yourself a cup of tea in your kitchen, watch the sunset from the roof deck, open your home to friends, know that one has come before you who knows exactly how you feel.  If you are half as happy as I have been here, you will be truly blessed.

As for me, I am ready to open a new door. And my new home has unique features of its own.  Two years shy of being a century old, this two-family house has retained much of its original detail and character.  Warm wood trim adorns each window and doorway.  Both the living and dining rooms boast bay windows.  The dining room’s built-in has lovely period leaded glass, and a butler’s pantry adjoins it with the kitchen.

This house needs no time, no holidays, no new memories to become my home.  It already is…  Like many older homes in the Boston metro area, this is a “family home” – with my brother living on the second floor and me on the first floor.

My arrival has my Italian-American next-door neighbors nodding in approval, “That’s nice,” they said, “keeping it in the family.”

“Yes,” I agree, “La familia!”

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