Friday, September 8, 2017

Revisiting The Mother of The Bride Speech . . .




Last year I was asked if I would like to make a “speech” at my older daughter’s wedding (which was a long time coming). I hadn't given it any thought, but when she asked, I happily accepted. I spent hours thinking about what I wanted to say on this special day. I researched online what should be included. It’s not every day you give your daughter away. I became a little nostalgic reliving so many sweet memories of her as a child. When it came time for me to sit down and write my thoughts, my speech was clearly too long . . . nine minutes or so long. I mentioned it to my daughter, who asked me if I could cut it down by 50%. Of course I obliged. There was a perfect division in the speech that allowed me to cut out the first half and just use the second part. By the way, the entire speech, unedited, is also a blog, in case you missed it. When everyone was seated I was called to the microphone. I was startled because I didn’t know I would have to speak so early. I had my notes and told everyone who was standing, with their drinks in hand, that they might want to sit down for this one. Then I proceeded to speak from my notes. It was a heartfelt, well thought out speech. I have no regrets. So why this blog?

Well, it seems that while most people found my speech very touching, there were some who thought it was too long (obviously they weren't listening). And since then, some have mentioned it from time to time, “teasing” me about it in a way that I didn’t appreciate. I can take a joke, but sometimes a joke doesn’t feel funny after it’s been said in a passive aggressive way and more than one time. Then it’s not a joke any more, but a ridiculing criticism. I take offense to that. I wasn’t asked to make a simple toast, I was asked to make a speech. There’s a difference. Anyone can make a toast, but only one person at that wedding could have said the things I had to say, and I did. Even my daughter, who had managed to hold back her tears all day, told me the words I had said brought her to tears. I know that years from now she and her husband will still appreciate those words even more than they did on their wedding day.

Now what wasn’t in the speech, or in the blog I wrote about it, is something no one knows. It’s about my fears and my internal dialogue. A year before the wedding I was diagnosed with a benign growth in my neck which was affecting my nerves, specifically it could affect my voice or my ability to speak, among other things. The doctor has me on a “watch and wait” plan, not wanting to do surgery until it becomes necessary. During the course of the year, between the engagement and wedding, I had been experiencing some minor symptoms. I realized one day I might not be able to tell my daughter all the things I had in my heart to say. But this wedding gave me a special moment in time to do just that and I wasn’t going to waste it. So I wrote and delivered my “speech” with all the love in a mother’s heart. To those of you who appreciated what I had to say and offered kind words, I thank you. And to anyone who didn’t like that I took five freaking minutes to tell my daughter and son in law how I feel well . . . they can kiss my ass.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

First Anniversary Gifts . . .

When you give a gift, sometimes people may wonder what the thought process was to picking out something, especially if it’s a handmade piece of art. My daughter and son in law’s first wedding anniversary was coming up and I wanted to give them something special. My daughter is all about tradition and paper is the traditional gift for a first wedding anniversary. Months ago I had gotten them a book to record the details of each anniversary along with a picture.  This is the book I chose.  



I had to ask her for their favorite wedding photo for page one, in order to have it ready to present to them on their anniversary.  I also picked out a few others so they have a choice of which one they want to use.  This way they would have a keepsake of all their anniversaries in one place and it’s all paper. Here is the picture she sent me, which I placed in a matted frame, as a little extra gift.



But because I started so early, my mind kept wandering off to what else I could get. this past Christmas they wanted a large canvas map so they could place pins in all the places they visited and plan to go.  Here is that map, their first work of art: 


I was thinking of what I could get them that would match nicely with this piece and also commemorate their anniversary in paper.  I came upon this item which to me seemed perfect. It's a  handmade, cut out, 3D tree with the lyrics of their first song printed on it. It would have two or three hearts hanging from a branch with their names on it and the date of their anniversary and would come already framed and ready to hang.  Here is a sample: 



I customized my gift so that the tree color would be turquoise (like their names on the map), the hearts bright yellow, like the compass, and each heart would have their names printed on it and a third, smaller heart would have the date of their first anniversary.  

Why did I think this would be the perfect gift? First it's made out of paper. When I looked at it I saw their first dance as their first memory as husband and wife. The words to the song, “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz, hold much meaning for them and would be a constant reminder of how they felt about each other on their wedding day. I picked turquoise for the tree because I wanted it to match their map and represent the "waters of life," which are sometimes calm and sometimes rough. The lyrics would be in white, like the foam. I saw the tree itself as symbolizing both their families and their roots; the branch with the hearts as the new family they were creating together and adding on to it. I picked yellow for the hearts to match the compass on the map. I hoped it would symbolized that, like a compass, they would help each other navigate through their journey of life together, guiding each other in the right direction. Yellow also reminded me of the lyric in their song, a "beautiful sunrise," that they see in each other's eyes. 

And, I had to stray a little from traditional paper in order to make this crocheted Aran Heart Throw that I had my eye on for a long time.  It took about a week to make. It's not perfect, but it's made of love. I think it will look great in their new home.





Another thing made of paper is, of course, the card. I have been very unsuccessful finding beautiful, meaningful cards for special occasions and often have to settle for what's there. Even Hallmark has been disappointing in their selection of special cards. So, I had to get creative if I wanted to give them a keepsake for this anniversary milestone.  I investigated the art of paper quilling that involves rolling up pieces of paper to create pictures. I ordered myself a basic kit and created this card for the special couple.  


I can't wait till my daughter sees this! Considering it was my first and only try at quilling, I think it came out very nice.  Maybe now I will terminate my relationship with Hallmark. 

So the day of the celebration arrived and here are the photos:

The Quilled Card 

Favorite Wedding Picture

Anniversary Picture Album

Art: Tree with words to wedding song with hearts with
names and date of anniversary

Heart Throw Blanket









Sunday, June 25, 2017

Reflecting on Our 34th Anniversary . . .



Today my husband and I celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary.  And, while it doesn't seem like yesterday when we took our vows, the years have passed by much more quickly than we would've liked.  We've been blessed with two beautiful, intelligent daughters who have made our lives full, rich and complete. They have given us joy and happiness every day of their lives. We've lost our parents and other loved ones through the years, and have gotten through the rough times with each other's love and support. We have shared countless happy moments with family and friends. We worked hard for everything we have, made many wise decisions and some mistakes along the way. We've gotten through some significant health crises through prayer and by being there for each other. Looking back, I am amazed at all we have lived through to get to this point. 

Someone recently asked me what is the secret to a long marriage. I think it's a combination of things. For us it was having a good foundation that began with a friendship that we built on. Friendship grows into love and trust. Without trust, all the love in the world will not make a marriage survive. Without love, all the trust in the world will not make you happy. You need an unwavering commitment to work through your problems. You need to communicate with each other so there is understanding. Our focus was always on each other and our family. We spent quality time together as much as possible. We weren't materialistic. Things will make you happy for a short time, a solid relationship will make you happy for a lifetime. Decide to stay out of debt. Money issues are stressful and destructive. Better to have a little less and no debt, than to be burdened with paying bills for a lot of things. As far as working overtime, if you don't really need the extra money, limit the overtime. The time spent with your children will make you richer than any check. And, no one I know ever got rich from working overtime. It's a matter of priorities. Before you know it, the years will go by, your children will be adults, and you will see they have adopted all the good family values you modeled for them.

In two weeks my older daughter and son in law will be celebrating their first anniversary. As I listen to them and watch them together, I can see that they are on the right path. They have been brought up to appreciate marriage and family and everything that means. I have no doubt that, when the the time is right, they will be wonderful parents and raise their children in a loving, supportive family just as their parents have done with them. I couldn't ask for anything more.

If my husband and I had our lives to live over again we would do it in a heartbeat. When you are with the right person, thirty-four years goes by way too fast. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Preserving Family Recipes . . . and Turning 30

Front: Pictures of my Sicilian Grandmother, my mother, me and my daughter,
four generations.


My older daughter has been interested in preserving all the told family photos, oral history, documents and genealogy of our family for quite some time now. Although she has taken a break from it to plan her wedding and work extra hours to save up for a home, I know it's never far from her mind. But I really didn't know how much it really meant to her until I asked her in the beginning the new year what she wanted for her 30th birthday. Traditionally we would either go out to eat at a nice restaurant or I would cook a favorite meal at home. Since this was her 30th birthday, a milestone, I wanted to know if she wanted to do anything special and told her to think about it.  About a week later, while we were talking the phone, she announced, "I know what I want for my birthday.  I want to cook grandma's recipes."

Top: Map of Italy where our maternal recipes originated

At first I was stunned. Speechless. I wasn't expecting that at all. Selfishly speaking, I wanted a nice day out where I wouldn't have to cook, and here she wanted to do nothing but cook. After getting over the initial shock, I said to her, "We can't do all that cooking in one day. You'll have to decide what you want to make and we'll do that." All the while my mind is swimming with all the meals my mother cooked over the years and how I hated some of them so I never paid any attention to how she made them, like lentils and pasta.  But, my daughter made her request clear and she was serious about it, I could hear it in the tone of her voice. It's my job to make her wish come true and suddenly I regretted not asking my mother to write down all her recipes for me.


Sides: The top one is her paternal grandmother who came here from Malta
The bottom picture is her paternal great-grandmother who came from Austria

So, without telling her anything, I compiled a list of all the things I remembered my mother making. Then I got the brainstorm to get a recipe box to decoupage with the faces and places where her recipes would come from. I got my materials together and watched youtube videos on how to decoupage on wood. I ordered recipes cards and dividers and even a binder with pages, so I could have two complete sets of recipes for her. I planned to write them all out and present her with the whole two sets of recipes on her birthday. I hoped this would put her mind at ease that the recipes would be well preserved for future generations. I even had some recipes hand written by my mother and mother in law that I slipped into plastic sleeves to preserve for her with her family tree notes and charts.

The inside: is me and my daughter on her wedding day.
Behind us is a copy of my mother's "fig cookie recipe" which we made together.

The question remains, "Which recipe do we make for her birthday?" As I thought about it, there was only one clear answer, one choice above all the others, and that was my mother's tradition Sunday sauce.  Sunday sauce is the most important recipe we will ever make. It's the meal we grew up on, the meal that means home and family and love. It's handed down from generation to generation. You can find recipes for all the other meals in books or online, but you can never find one for your family's Sunday sauce.

The back is my son in law's mother and maternal grandmother from the Philippines;
and his paternal grandmother from England.

Now, I had shown her how to make the sauce about 15 years ago when I was going through a medical crisis and I wanted to be sure both my girls knew how to make it. It's not written down anywhere, it's in my mind's eye from watching my mother make it every Sunday throughout my life. Back in the day, when kids only had 6 channels on tv (no computers, no smart phones, no HBO, no Netflix, no cable, no nothing), we had nothing better to do than watch our moms cook. That was our reality TV.  And as we watched them we would talk and they would explain what they were doing and we would learn. Not today. Most kids only go into a kitchen when they need a snack, and even then, they probably have their eyes glued to the phone. However, after 15 years I'm sure she has forgotten everything I taught her about making Sunday sauce. So, I am fairly sure this will be the recipe we will start with.

The bottom 


Sunday sauce is a basic meat sauce that includes lots of meatballs (a little job in themselves), Italian pork sausage, and pork meat in chunks. However, there is more to it than that. For example, if you want to make a lasagna (another big job) you have to make the Sunday sauce first and add loose chop meat to the pot so the sauce that layers the lasagna is full of meat. This is true for baked ziti too. Then there is another Italian delicacy called braciole, which is thin slices of beef stuffed with salami, hard boiled egg, raisins and sliced onion, rolled up and sealed with toothpicks. This is something usually reserved for holidays and special occasions. Suffice to say that Sunday sauce and everything that goes with it, is the most traditional and most important family recipe we have.

I remembered some of the other recipes and for others I drew blanks. There were things my mother made that I never ate, so I had just a flimsy idea of how she cooked them. I went online and looked for recipes that would jog my memory and fill in the gaps so I could complete the recipes for the collection. I would compare two or three recipes to try to get as close as I could to my mother's cooking. I spent a couple of weeks writing them out in a notebook and going over each recipe until I was satisfied that I had captured the essence of what my mother did in her kitchen. Now, I just had to recopy them all on cards for the box and pages for the binder and get them ready for her birthday.


Now to fill up these cards!

Writing all the recipes two times, in neat handwriting, wasn't easy. I'd write a couple a day wanting them to be perfect, but of course I made mistakes. Thank God for white out!  I could have typed them all, but it wouldn't have been nearly as personal as I wanted this gift to be.  Slowly, but surely, I finished all the recopying and now I just have to wrap all the items and place them in a box.  I picked up a small rolling pin that holds recipe cards so you can stand them up when using them. I think she will a kick out of that.  



And now all that remains is for her to open her gifts and capture her reaction.

The BIG day arrives and we begin by cooking the sauce.  We set up the pot, stuff the braciole, fry up the meats (sausage, pork meat and braciole) and add everything to the pot.  Then we make the meatballs, fry them and add them to the pot.





And there's more to come!


A small bangle bracelet with cooking charms.

And then came the gifts. What Baby wants, Baby gets.

Gold Hoop earrings

\
Recipe box filled with old family recipes

Binder filled with old family recipes
and

The Cake!


Happy 30th Birthday to my Baby!








Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our Kind of Family . . .



I grew up in a family where anyone would do anything for you if you needed help. At the same time we grew up to be independent and handle our own business. Asking for help from anyone was a last resort and, because we all knew that, help was usually offered without ever having to ask.

My brother and I grew up knowing we were going to college. There was never any talk about who would pay for it or where the money would come from. Without any thought about the expense, we applied, got accepted and we each paid for our own education, including books, fees, tuition and transportation. When I graduated, I paid back my student loans in full within a year. We found jobs, saved our own money, and contributed to the family household. The money my parents collected from us would eventually come back to us in the form of birthday and Christmas gifts, but we learned a valuable lesson about standing on our own two feet. That's the kind of family I was raised in.

When my husband and I got engaged, we planned and paid for our own formal wedding. We never thought about asking our parents to contribute towards the expenses. We paid for the venue, the limousines, the flowers, the rings, the photographer, invitations and favors. We had enough money left over for a two week honeymoon in Hawaii. No one offered to help us out, we did it on our own. But, knowing we had so many expenses right before we were married, my mother offered to buy us our first living room furniture as a wedding gift and my brother got us a complete, queen size bedroom set so we could furnish our home. That's the kind of thing my family does.

Before I had my first baby, my husband and I couldn't afford to buy a home. The houses were priced high and the interest rate was 14%.  I wanted to be a stay at home mom, so we could not count on my income to pay expenses. My mother offered to finish her basement for my cousin to live in so that we could have the apartment on the first floor of her house, at a modest rent, and continue saving money towards our own home. When our first daughter was 18 months, we began looking at houses again. The rates had come down to 10% and that was still high. We found a home we thought was reasonable, but we worried we didn't have enough of a downpayment to keep the monthly payment affordable on one salary. My parents and my husband's parents both kicked in an equal and substantial amount of money, as a gift, to help purchase our home and ease our minds about the payments. That's the kind of help you don't dare ask for, but gets offered with no strings attached.

The outside of our house needed painting because it was faded from the years of sun rays hitting it. I mentioned to my mother that we were looking for a painter and getting estimates. The lowest one we got was for $900. After our conversation ended, not ten minutes had past, and the phone was ringing. It was my mother. She said she had spoken to my father and they wanted to pay for the paint job on the house. They wouldn't take no for an answer. And, that's how our new house got painted. It was never mentioned again. That's the kind of parents I had.

When my second daughter was three years old she needed private speech therapy. We learned it would cost $90 a session for 45 minutes every week. We weren't sure we could afford an extra $360 a month at that time and we didn't know how many months this would last. While we were considering our options, we got two phone calls. One was from my brother and the other from my mother in law, each of them offering to pay for half of the therapy sessions so we wouldn't have to worry or fall behind on our bills. No mention of a loan. Just something they wanted to do for us and our daughter. That's the kind of thing our family does.

Our parents lived for their children. They gave us life. They gave us unconditional love. They gave us strong family values. They gave us their complete support. They made sacrifices every day of their lives to make sure we always got what we needed. All of this went unspoken, but it was understood. It was ingrained in who we grew up to be because we lived it every day. We were blessed beyond measure to have had them and to have grown up in such a loving family. And, I can say without a doubt, that their legacy of love has been continued with my own girls, who have been raised with the same values. I know it's how they will raise their children because they don't know any other way. And I hope one day, when they look back on their lives, they will feel the same way about my husband and I.


Monday, March 6, 2017

The Dreaded Doctor's Appointment


Doctor's visits are nothing new to me. In fact, since 2004 I have seen more doctors than I can count and had CT scans, MRIs, a few sonograms and biopsies and even a PET scan. I've had so much radiation that I should be glowing in the dark by now (and that's not even counting routine mammograms and dental x-rays). And in a couple of weeks I'll be going for another MRI and follow-up visit for a growth found in my neck the summer of 2015.  You might call it "The Birdhouse Summer" because in order to cope with all the tests and waiting I took up painting and giving away birdhouses. My poor husband might call it "Our Summer Vacation at Michael's." We got through it.

Last winter when I saw this doctor, I was too preoccupied with my daughter's wedding to get worked up over my MRI. I didn't have time for any distractions. I didn't ask any questions, especially since the doctor was happy and said there had been no change. Why look for trouble? Everything was under control. And as he asked to see me in one year, I asked if we could make it a couple of months earlier or later because January weather is very unpredictable. He agreed to see me two months later, in March. Well it's March. Here we are. And, I'm dreading it. 

Anyone who has a medical cloud over their head probably knows the feeling. As your appointment approaches you are afraid to make any plans in case there's a change and you have to cancel them. You sit in limbo, keeping your fears to yourself so as not to upset anyone else unnecessarily. Often you get paranoia, getting suspicious over every ache and twinge and sometimes thinking the worst. At least I'm not doing any online research and driving myself crazy over it. Instead, I've gone back to crocheting and crafting whatever comes into my mind. I'm being productive . . . sort of. I don't feel the need to do an extra cleaning around the house, so I'm not that productive. I'm just sitting here with fleeting thoughts of anxiety between projects. Wondering. Should I ask any questions? Do I want to know the answers? Should I just let sleeping dogs lie?  I get the impression the doctor doesn't want to worry about something that might not happen. That "something" being surgery. 

So I guess I'll pass the next few days as creatively as I can. I have three projects to distract me and the sun has been shining. Spring is around the corner. I wonder what Michael's has on sale?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Ear Piercing . . .

In many Italian families, when baby girls are born, they usually get their ears pierced as infants.  However, my mother elected not to that that with me and I decided to get mine pierced when I was a tween. She took me to the family doctor, who took out a curved piercing implement, did each ear separately and inserted some surgical black thread so the hole wouldn't close while it healed. It was painful. Not so sure if I had a "do over" I would have done it again, but no regrets.

When I had my own daughters, instead of following the old tradition, I did what my mother did and left their ears alone. I figured if they really wanted to get their ears pierced one day they could make that decision for themselves. However,  I didn't foresee that my older daughter would want to make that decision at 5 years old. She came home from kindergarten one day asking if she could get her ears pierced because "so-and-so" had their ears pierced.  I might have taken her to get it done, but I wanted to be sure she really wanted her ears pierced for the right reasons and not just because someone else had them. I told her ear piercings are permanent and she couldn't change her mind after the fact. I agreed that she could get her ears pierced if she still wanted to do it when she was seven. That way she would have plenty of time to think about it and, if she still wanted it done, we would do it a month before her birthday and then we would get her earrings for her birthday presents. She agreed.

Two years is a very long time to wait when you are 5 years old, but she did. As her seventh birthday drew near she reminded me of our agreement and said she still wanted to get her ears pierced.  My stomach did a flip flop because I knew she had no idea of the pain involved no matter how I tried to prepare her. I found a jewelry store that pierced both ears simultaneously, because knowing my daughter, if they did them one at a time she wasn't going to stay for the second ear.  This time they used some sort of "gun" which injected little earrings right into the lobe and both ears were done! It was relatively simple. She was a little trooper. Of course, as it often is with younger sisters, my younger daughter also wanted hers pierced, but I made the same deal with her.

For my daughter's birthday she got three new pairs of earrings: gold balls, pearls, and diamonds (her birthstone).  You would think that chapter was now closed. Nope.

Three or four years later "so-and-so"got a second piercing above the first one so she could wear two pairs of earrings in each ear.  A new fad that was probably started just to drive parents crazy. My daughter came home wanting to get a second piercing in each ear.  Now I am a reasonable person and I live to make my children happy, but I wasn't going along with a fad and add two extra holes to my daughters head. So I told her no, that wasn't happening.  I explained that sooner or later this great new "look" was not going to be popular and she would be stuck with these extra holes in her ears forever. Besides that, and as a compromise, I told her if she wanted that "look," they have earrings that are designed to make it look like you have two piercings without going through another ordeal. That seemed to satisfy her.

To this day she still only has the one piercing in each ear. I think I made the right call.