Chicken Soup, Family Trees & Murder

The other day, Paul was browsing some ancestry sites online. I told him I’d been thinking about doing that too. I asked him, “Wouldn’t it be cool if at least one of my ancestors were a murderer?” Paul went back to his computer as though he were alone, which is sensible.

I had a cold yesterday, so I was sitting here feeling sorry for myself. When I’m sick, I’m a big fat baby about it, and I offer no remorse. (If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ve been warned about segues that may cause hernias.)

My cousin Lesli offered some comforting thoughts, mostly to drown out the whining. (Lesli is known in Italian as a cugina fantastica – fantastic cousin, female persuasion*) Some people offer fatuous well wishes and soup, but she knew that wasn’t going to cut it. So she told me a couple of stories about our family history.

The first story was about why a pack of Valleleys emigrated from Italy in 1903 and ended up Protestants. I mean, we’re talking Italy here, a country in which, by law, you must be Catholic or be crucified. Maybe burned at the stake. I might be confusing this with the Salem Witch Trials.

Seems the Valleleys were happily attending a Catholic parish in some US state when an Irish priest walked in the door.** He tried his best to bring the Lord to his parishioners as he struggled to hide his contempt for Italians.

Every service he mustered all of his compassion, but his sermons always started the same way:

Priest: “O, Lord, how we hate the fuckin’ dagos.”

Most of the people: “Let us show them the door.”

Priest: “Damn skippy, dudes.”

Or something like that. I paraphrase.

So about ten families joined the Protestant church down the street. This guy was so abusive that they left an entire religion, not just the building. Impressive. I love this story because it helps explain why my Irish/Italian blood is on a constant raging boil. Perhaps also why I don’t go to church.

Lesli’s second story makes me so happy that I probably should go back into therapy.

Our great-grandfather (whose name we don’t know, but let’s call him “Grandpa Badass”) was a caretaker for some guy in Italy about a hundred years ago. Someone was stealing from Grandpa B’s boss, and when Grandpa couldn’t get the guy to stop, he shot and killed him.

That’s so fucking great.

Then GB had to move to America because the freakin’ mafia started hunting him.

Actual picture of Grandpa Badass’s would-be killers. Or I just wish it were. This. Is. Awesome.

Then Grandpa had to keep moving from state to state ‘cause these maniacally dedicated goombahs followed him here. They were that pissed off.

At this point, I’ve wet my pants and forgotten my cold.

Love can be expressed in many forms – chicken soup, comforting words, a warm blanket. But the best way to show you care is to tell me I’m the descendant of an easily annoyed murderer.

Thanks, Lesli.


* If you know Italian and I’m incorrect, don’t be a smartass. Who asked you?

** I swear there’s a “So this Irish priest walks into a bar” joke here somewhere.

Protests and Peaches: An Embarrassing Update

As I was writing the January 19 post about my fear of going to a tutoring session during an on-campus political protest, I was determined to go no matter what. I reasoned with myself. “Self,” I said, “just use the back entrance of the school. No need to worry about tear gas, nightsticks, and Molotov cocktails.”

I felt brave and proud.

Ready to fight that fear. So badass.

Later that morning as I updated my work schedule, I started hyperventilating. I told Paul, “I’m past my eyeballs in work. It doesn’t make any sense to go to tutoring today, right?”

Paul’s developed a keen instinct for knowing when to question me or just roll with my bug-eyed freakouts. In this case he said, “It sure does” in that sort of voice one uses when trying to persuade a rabid dog not to attack.

I felt sensible and mature.

A few hours later as I watched live footage of the campus protest, I was relieved not to be there. I was safe in my home office and not being water-cannoned.

That’s when I realized the full impact of my subconscious’s douchebaggery. It manipulated me into hiding, and I went along without question. Just like the one time I agreed to let a whole life insurance salesman in the door. It makes sense to say yes until he’s been there for six hours and you start to suspect he’s going to move in until you buy something.*

Volunteering means a lot to me, and now I feel like a jerk.

Hiding from fear. Typical.

This situation reminds me of the time I told Paul that I wanted to learn how to use a chainsaw. As Paul looked on, wearing his customary bemused expression, I stood in the driveway, holding a running chainsaw and weeping as though I were being threatened by a serial killer.

Plus I never got any peaches. Just a crappy star fruit. Those are awful. Don’t even bother.

* I’m talking about an insurance salesman who sells “whole life” policies. Obviously I wouldn’t let a partial salesman in the door because it’s too difficult to get blood out of the carpet.

(Kitty photo by Allmightyduck at Wikimedia Commons.)

Protests and Peaches

This morning I learned that 250 students at the local college plan to walk out of class tomorrow in political protest. This is scheduled during the time I tutor someone on campus, so I started writing a benevolent e-mail, telling him I understand if he’d prefer not to meet. Maybe he wants to join the protest, or perhaps he’d rather avoid the campus because of the potential for violence?

By the start of the third paragraph, I sat back and said, “Oh, this is my shit.”

So the Watts Riots of 1965. (My first piece of merchandise is going to be an official Windmill Tilter Neck Brace. “Wear at all times. This blog contains herky-jerky segues.”)

The Watts Riots happened just around the corner from us in ’65. For years I thought they were a million miles away, but Google Maps just told me, “Holy crap, Cindy. That maelstrom was happening in the next neighborhood!” *

Considering how close it was, it’s no surprise that my father sat me down and, in a voice filled with gravitas, said, “If you’re anywhere near a riot, run. Even from the cops. I know we keep telling you the police are your friends, but in the chaos, they won’t be able to tell the difference between you and a rioter.”

Good advice, that, except the cops could easily pick me out of a crowd then because I was five years old.

We lived in an area that was so breathtaking in its safety that I used to go door to door, alone, “shopping” for peaches. Everyone stocked up on them just in case I visited. Why the hell would I stroll into a riot zone when there’s no guarantee of free fruit?

For fifty-two years now, I’ve avoided all marches, rallies, and sit-ins. I’m stuck with my fear, but I admire those who speak their mind loudly or silently, publicly, and peacefully.

To all aspiring thugs who want to bring violence and distract from the protesters’ message: Fuck you in advance.

To all peaceful protesters: Be as loud or quiet as you see fit, but please be safe.

This looks like fun, but I’ll just stay at home, eating fruit.

* Yes, I believe Google Maps talks to me. You try sitting alone in a home office, day after day, and maintaining sanity. I dare you.

A Balanced View

Our Molly has been sick lately. (See half of her in the header photo. Isn’t she gorgeous? Also stealthy.)

Of course I assumed her diagnosis would be dire. She’s almost nine, which is killing me but not fast enough. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes. Except food. And vodka.

I’m fed up with my brain. It doesn’t want me to even know there’s a bright side, let alone look at it.

My thought when Paul says, “Let’s take a trip!”

In fairness to me, though – and in the time-honored tradition of parent-blaming – my mother and father taught me to be this way.

My mother’s favorite phrase was “Don’t get your hopes up.” When I asked her why, she said, “I don’t want you to be disappointed.” This sounds protective and motherly, but what I learned was: Disappointment is horrible. Avoid it at all costs.

On the positive side, this lesson saved me a lot of tuition over the decades. As soon as a class got difficult (usually in the drop-now-and-you’ll-get-all-your-tuition-back period), I’d bail.

My father knew disappointment was inevitable, though, so he modeled coping skills for me. Like the time he jumped up from the kitchen table, holding an empty frozen dinner box in one hand and smacking it with the other. He screamed, “The Salisbury steak isn’t the same size as the picture on the box!”

I think it’s great when parents work together to raise a healthy child.

The Anti-Socialite

Today I’m going through Facebook and unfollowing everyone and everything that upsets me. I’m down to cats and comedy and comedic cats.

Just in case I die and someone snoops around my follows, I’m including NPR, National Geographic, and the Dalai Lama so I appear intelligent and caring. No one needs to know that I just watch videos about the feline Stars of the Internet.

I figure if I’m on social media less and my home is getting tidier-ish, I have more time to host gatherings, which, as you know if you read my previous post, I’m eager to do.

When I envision throwing a party, it’s always a bore for my guests, if any show up. I feel pressure to be an amazing hostess:


And then there’s the fear of people staying long past my comfort limit, but if they do, I figure I can end the party by feigning death.


Maybe I’ll just keep the place a mess and let the idea of human interaction go.

The Happy Highway to Doom Town

This morning I realized I’ve been happy for a while. Then my brain snuck in ninja-style to tell me, “Your cancer’s coming back.” Not true so far, but my mind isn’t concerned about facts.

Last week I saw how much progress I was making tilting our household detritus into a bin. Décor was happening. It was weird. I thought, “Shit. When everything’s organized, I’m going to drop dead. No. Worse. I’m going to feel obligated to have people over.”

When someone compliments me, my mind whispers, “Just give it a second. They’re going to figure out you’re a dirtbag.”

Paul challenges these notions by asking, “Why do you think your clients keep sending you work?” I’ll let you know if I think of a credible response.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep trying, although floating in a 24-hour drunken oblivion remains an option.

Paranoia and Predictability

I recently came home from the store that’s one block from our house, and I saw Paul’s car parked in our spot. So when I opened the front door, I shouted the usual “Hello!” There was no response, so I assumed that he was on the floor in the bedroom, cyanotic, eyes wide open. Dead.

I was so certain he’d dropped that I couldn’t move. I stood in the foyer with my grocery bag dangling from my hand, trying not to panic. I knew I needed to check the bedroom, and I’d have to call 9-1-1. But I didn’t want to see him lying there.

A few seconds went by, and I heard a key turn in the front door. Paul ambled in and smiled.

I blurted in a voice that was straining to sound casual, “Oh! There you are! Hah-hah!”

Paul asked, “Thought I was dead?”


He chirped, “Of course you did.” Then he took both of our grocery bags and shuffled to the kitchen.

I’m torn between gratitude for Paul’s acceptance of my paranoia and dissatisfaction for having become predictable, but I believe paranoia rules.

When I asked Google what I should request from Paul for Christmas*, it suggested the Car Hammer. I’m not sure if “passive security system” is a commentary about the driver’s character, but I still like this product. The description in Amazon is:

“Car Hammer: Vital Safety Seatbelt Cutter Survival Kit: Window Punch Breaker Tool for Family Rescue & Emergency Escape, Great Christmas Gift”


Nothing evokes Christmas cheer like saying, “Next time you drive off a pier, you’ll be ready. Love, Santa.”



* Yes. I Googled “great gifts for women” because I couldn’t think of a damned thing.

Egomania and Beef Broth

I’ve got the bread in the oven. I’m getting the beef bones and veggies ready for roasting. Then I’ll simmer them for eight hours. I love doing this stuff, but now I’m getting flashbacks to the last time I did more than one thing in the kitchen at a time.

Ever since I cut out sugar five months ago and (most) alcohol somewhat more recently, I’ve got more energy and clarity than I’ve had in years. I hate it. I feel like I’m supposed to achieve amazing things now. I imagine blogging about my amazingness, but in a humble way, and my followers can’t get enough of me. I’m so inspiring.

I work at home, and time is flexible. It seems like everything is possible. But I’m haunted by my history of starting projects, especially buying all the gadgetry that goes with them, while finishing nothing. In a sense, I’m being true to my life motto: “If it can’t be overdone, it’s not worth doing.”

But I’m fifty-seven now, and I want to be more mature, or at least appear that way. So I figured I’d be sensible and start with just one or two goals. I feel in charge, mature, balanced.

Now the couple of goals have grown into:

Make bread, salad dressings, and broths to avoid processed crap with all the sugar and chemicals, while feeling smug about the poor saps stuck with store-bought junk. Check out my awesomeness:

Crossword my ass off in a book so large that the editor, Will Shortz the authentically amazing, questions the sanity of anyone buying so many puzzles at once.


Crochet snuggle blankets for animals in shelters. Current status of Blanket #1:


Start a cross-stitch project I’ve owned for ten years and just broke out of the packaging. What it should look like:


Current status:


Learn to knit:


Tidy and decorate the house:


Write my memoirs:


Exercise regularly:


I suppose this is all just a different kind of obsession, but I seem to be kicking domestic ass today. And there’s the red flag I always miss. Just in case I forget about it when the broth is ready to strain tonight, I posted this above the kitchen sink:


Maybe I’ll do okay. Today.