Friday, December 21, 2007

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

When people hear my last name for the first time, many ask if my family is like the Portokalos family from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Lamentably, they are not, but I've discovered that I still love my family about as much as is possible. And we are crazy and loud and familiar and welcoming and warm and fantastic in our own way.

This evening we were all in the kitchen for a rare family dinner, everyone shouting at each other and warming up individual leftovers or pre-prepared dinners which normal families don't allow at "family dinners." Mom had just gotten home so of course there was the Christmas mail haul to work through, everyone fighting to see Christmas cards they hadn't opened or reread ones they had after someone else mentioned how cute the card was. As if they had missed something the first time around.

Far from the norm when we are all at school, dinner conversation revolved around charitable donations and tax deductions which escalated into an unprecedented form of hilarity when Kelly and Laura decided to mimic every hand motion that Mom performed while talking. Apparently explaining the intricacies of taxes and charitable giving requires a lot of hand motions. The entire family was in stitches, Dad most of all, which is rare during dinner table antics.

After dinner the girls had sisterly bonding time with the ab workout from Satan. Mary breezed through it, barely taxing her six-pack while the rest of us grunted and Lamaze-d our way through most of the motions. I'm going to be sore tomorrow, but it was a treat to spend even that time together since the past couple weeks have been "go your own way" to the extreme. My way has involved a lot of couch time and desserts. Laura's way has involved a lot of making me feel guilty for not studying. And a lot of couch time and desserts.

Total side note before I sign off: I just finished reading The Things We Do For Love and it was refreshing and encouraging to read a book that had nothing to do with spies or cops or agents or murder and still thoroughly enjoy it. It was the type of uplifting book that restores my faith in power of love and the wonder of life that I have been looking for since my New Year's resolution to read books outside my comfort zone. It took me 11 and a half months to find that book (with lots of other treasures read in the mean time), but I think I can call it a successfully met resolution. And I still have a little over a week to think of a new one for next year.

Merry Christmas, and extreme peace as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. Catch you on the far side of the cruise!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Grace of the day

Just a quick note about how easily a simple thing can put you in a great mood for the rest of the night:
Okay so today was pretty much horrible. I stayed up too late so I was exhausted. Plus I'm really failing at getting rid of this cold, which I hope is a cold and not the flu because I was stupid and didn't get my flu shot. I had all sorts of body aches and exhaustion and stuffy nose and head congestion, and for the first time in memory I had clogged ears. It was like being on an airplane and underwater and the same time, and it hurt like the dickens. Okay, you can see it was an awful day. The only saving grace was that I had very little to do since I'm on vacation and that 12-hour Sudafed really does clear those ears up.
Then I get to Mass for the Immaculate Conception (which is normally one of my favorite feast days, but I've been really slacking on the whole spiritual thing lately), and who do I see in the row in front of me? My host family for Week 4 of Totus Tuus. It took me a few minutes to realize why they looked familiar and most of Mass to remember all of their names. And then I remembered that this was the family I traumatized with my first heresy (all Totus Tuus teachers have at least one per summer), so I wasn't sure they'd want to see me even if they did remember me. But at the sign of peace, sure enough, the mom turned to me and mouthed "Michelle?" and I smiled and nodded.
After Mass I went to talk to them, and it was so sweet that they remembered me. They were one of my favorite families of the whole summer, despite that being the most stressful week for our team. We talked for a while and the mom referenced conversations that we had a year and a half ago and I was so impressed and honored that she had remembered. The kids weren't as social, but the oldest girl was the one who had recognized me in the first place. And when I asked them which team had stayed with them this summer, they totally blanked on names, so I felt even more special that they had remembered me from over a year ago.
Not only did it leave me on a high for the rest of the night, but it also took me back to Totus Tuus and reminded me how amazing it was and how touched I was by the generosity of all the families. I always wondered when we hosted teams if they remembered their host families after they left. And then when I taught, I wondered if the kids and families would remember me after I left. Now I know. The program has such an impact on everyone involved and it continues to touch me 18 months later. Yay for my wonderful host family for giving me the grace of the day. And truly the grace of the week.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

From blessings to Sin City

Long lost Michelle just checking in. I'm sure had I thought of it at the time, I could have blogged for hours on my crazy Thanksgiving. In fact, I could blog for hours on just about any time spent with my family. Typically the progress of emotions throughout the day (in any big family get-together) starts with stress at having to get ready and hoping that nobody comments behind my back about any weight I've gained. Sad, but true. Somehow I managed to get to my last week in Indy without gaining a single pound, but I'm not sure that lasted through Thanksgiving. Anyway, I then move to gratefulness and love because I adore my family and am so thankful for all of the joy they bring me. And then, when I'm at the peak of awe and wonder and my many familial blessings, I usually end on sadness and a sense of anticipation because I want so badly to share my family with my future husband, preferably before most of them die or leave Indiana. But mostly, I just love being with my family and all the new babies that grace our presence, and the never-ending sweet-tooth that results in cake and pie and cookies, and my Uncle Dave's sense of humor, and being a spoiled princess (new this year, and much appreciated). Also new this year was a humiliating rendition of the Soulja Boy dance performed by yours truly and my two soon-to-be-dead sisters who forced me into dancing in front of the entire clan. I guess it wasn't so bad.
But I'm not going to blog for hours on my crazy Thanksgiving. Nor do I really want to look back at my time in Indy and try to figure out highs and lows. And I definitely don't have it in me to process the Omaha shooting and make sense of the brevity and fragility of life. So I will tell you all of my extreme disgust at the amount of money people throw away. I just spent 3 days in Las Vegas and my perspective this time was slightly different from that of a naive 11-year-old (me last time I was in Vegas). For starters, minimum bets at the Blackjack tables are $10. That's right my friend, for a mere ten bucks, you too can have three seconds of enjoyment. Actually, I "helped" a friend play for the first time and it was amusing as we played two hands and ended up with her original ten dollars. We also got corrected on table ettiquette three times in two hands by the patient dealer, and I decided that was enough. People seriously sit there and risk hundreds of dollars in a matter of minutes, yet play for hours. That doesn't include the money spent on drinks (which they only offer once you have a bet on the table and which may result in substantially more money lost on betting), and remember that we are talking about the lowest-bet tables. Now factor in the millions who play high stakes, pay more for a single show than I spent on food and transportation in my entire three days, put up hundreds of dollars to stay in these opulent hotel/casinos, and don't bat an eye when three shots at a bar end up costing $36. Yikes. Maybe I can splurge on a new pair of shoes after all. I've decided that Vegas is not the place to go if you are on a tight budget. I did blow one dollar on the five-card-draw machine, and I did enjoy some of the free sights, but overall I did not enjoy myself. If I go back, I'm saving up so that I can enjoy myself, still on budget of course, but not sitting in my hotel room watching TV and splitting a Ghiradelli sundae that we had a coupon for. Still, I think I'd rather go to Greece or New Zealand or Vancouver or on a MEXICAN RIVIERA CRUISE. Start counting the days people! I have to stop typing now because my thumb is wrapped tightly in a bandaid and is starting to throb as I type. Stupid club-thumb.
I reserve the right to make this blog as worthless to read as I feel like, and also to write as infrequently as I deem necessary. Just thought I'd let you know since I finally decided to share my blog.