Their Pull

Boy and girl, though young and immature, both recognized Their Pull.

Pulling like an electric current around a giant loop.  A tingly, weighty, attraction.

Attracting them towards each other – their hands, their hips, their hearts.


Hearts and bodies aged, and the older they grew, the stronger Their Pull.

Pulling them with a sharp yank if they tried to push back.

Back to back they sometimes stood, until Their Pull flipped them around to face each other once again.


Again and again, they chose each other. No one else Pulled so tightly.

Tightly, they clung to each other, even if only via The Pull so others could barely see it.

It tugged ferociously when one hand grazed the other’s fingers, running lightly from knuckle to wrist.


Wristwatches and necklaces removed, they stood before each other bare.

Bare and exposed completely – Their Pull did not notice flaws.

Flaws and all, Their Pull kept them connected – their hands, their hips, their hearts.





Marriage Isn’t Always Fun (And That’s Okay)

Dating my husband was fun, especially when things started to get serious. We used to talk on the phone for hours, sharing our thoughts and our fears and our pasts with one another. We met early for breakfast and we gave each other loving glances over our coffee cups, soaking up each other’s good looks. We stayed up late watching movies in bed, cuddling close, even on 80 degree summer nights. We were always happy to see each other. Nothing beat those butterflies in my stomach and the excited feeling that accompanied the thought, This is the ONE.

When I hear people talk about marrying their best friend, I internally shake my head at their naivety. Do they really think it’ll stay that way? Dating and best friends are always fun. Marriage and spouses are not.

The thing about spouses, compared to best friends, is that they’re always there. My husband is not just there when I say, Yes, now’s a great time to get together! He’s there when I’m exhausted and need some peace and quiet. He’s there when I’m stressed and anxious and need an (hour/day/week) moment to myself. He’s there to witness each and every time I screw something up (and there to point it out, in case I didn’t notice). He’s there when I have unkempt hair and morning breath. He’s there, asking me to get him a glass of ice water when I just sat down on the couch. Once you get married, the butterflies in your stomach get replaced with a stomping elephant at your side.

After marriage, the constant togetherness melds with all of the crap that just needs to get done. It’s not all breakfasts out and movies in anymore. It’s figuring out how to deal with the woodchuck family that lives in your backyard, together. One of you wants to shoot it with a gun and the other wants to keep it as a pet. It’s installing cabinets in the bathroom, together. One of you loves to hammer and level and cut and the other cries tears of frustration after inserting ten screws because they’re so uncoordinated they can hardly rotate the screwdriver. It’s stocking the fridge and the pantry, together. One of you wants to buy loads of bacon and Fruit Loops and the other wants only organic lettuce and raw pumpkin seeds.

Dating is about getting what you want, but marriage is about getting what you both can deal with without either one of you completely losing your mind. Marriage means constantly teetering on the edge of madness due to the never-ending compromises that have to be made. It’s one of you not being able to sleep unless it’s dark and silent and the other not being able to sleep without the television on. ‘Til death do you part.


For a lot of people, discovering that spouses and marriages are not always fun doesn’t go over very well. Once they realize marriage is far more work than play, they want out. They give up.

But, not us.

Over time, our hours-long conversations have whittled down to ones that last an average of three minutes, but that’s okay. It’s not that we aren’t interested in each other’s stories, it’s just that we already know them inside and out. At breakfast, we don’t always give each other lovey-eyes over our coffee cups anymore, but that’s okay. It’s not that we don’t still view each other as lovely, it’s just that we already have each other’s faces etched into our brains. Our activities together often involve boring house stuff instead of exquisite dates, but that’s okay. It’s not as exciting, but at least we don’t have to do all of that crap on our own.

I love my husband to pieces. So even though marriage isn’t always fun, even though marriage is work, and, let’s be honest, even though marriage is downright infuriating at times, it’s okay.  That’s just how marriage is. And it’s fine, it’s better than fine, it’s grand, if you just know that going into it.

Marriage is not only full of annoying bits, it’s also filled with laughter and love, giving and gratitude, truth and trust. It’s made of, ‘Thank you for shaving my back’, and, ‘Do you want to have sex?’ ‘I smell.’ ‘I don’t care.’ ‘Okay, let’s do it’, and, ‘Oh my goodness, can you believe what so-and-so’s spouse is like? I’m so glad you’re not like that’ and ‘Honey, I need a hug.’ And most of the time we don’t even need to speak those words aloud, we know each other well enough to say them without speaking.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine snapped a photo of me and my husband when we weren’t paying attention. She looked at it and told me, “I think I just captured a picture that perfectly epitomizes your marriage.”  In the photo, I’m giving my husband an annoyed look and he’s looking pissed off, his head turned away from mine. What makes the picture great is that even though our body language said, irritated spouse, it also said there was more to that story because both of us were smirking. Neither of us knew the other was smiling since we weren’t facing one another.



I laughed when I saw the picture because it really DID epitomize our marriage. The love and adoration we have for each other is always there, even if we don’t always let the other one see it.

Sometimes Being a Cob-Rolling Gluttonous Pig is the Best Way to Say I Love You

After the holidays most of us are familiar with the post-celebratory letdown.  The saying goodbye to the  getting together, the laughing, the gaming, the feasting.  The saying hello to the unpacking, the de-tagging, the washing-drying-folding-and-putting-awaying.  The uncomfortable realization that our pants are now one size too tight (or in my case, TWO sizes too tight, since I went into December already a size overboard).

Most people are ready to buckle down, clean up the house and along with it, their diet.  Most people are ready to unfreeze the gym membership, and otherwise pull themselves together.

Not us.  Not this year.

Instead, we’re veering in the opposite direction.  We’re taking a sharp left from the territory of overindulgence to the province of gluttony.  After this trip, I’m confident I will not be able to sausage-stuff myself into my jeans at all.  My thighs may soon each possess a gravitational pull that rivals a small planet.

So, what are we doing?  We’re going to begin taste-testing the 10 best pizzas in Michigan, hitting up three of them in three days, on the first leg of our pizza tour.


We planned this tour last year based on MLive’s 2013 Top 10 Pizzas’s in Michigan.  Unfortunately, due to health issues I was dealing with  (extreme fatigue, blood sugar issues associated with PCOS), almost exactly one year ago I ended up drastically cutting out wheat from my diet.

In the past year I’ve eaten exactly zero pretzels, cookies, breads or cakes. I’ve eaten pizza three times and have had probably literally a handful of bites of other wheat-flour laden foods.  (I have had a few beers, I will admit – but overall I’m mostly a wine gal these days).  While I haven’t lost any weight, I have noticed a significant improvement in energy and decrease in blood pressure.

When I told my sister, who happens to be a nutritionist, about our 3-day pizza bingeing plan she told me,

“You’re going to feel like shit for, like, a month”.

“Yep,” I nodded, confirming I understood exactly what I was getting myself into.

I am prepared.  Sometimes married couples need to get away and have some fun  – energy levels, thigh circumferences and blood sugar levels be damned.

So we begin.  Let’s go have some married fun, damn it.  We can detox later.


“What music do you want to fall asleep to?”

My husband drives, I sleep.

“The White Buffalo”. Our current favorite band. And we were off.


Michigan is in the midst of an ice storm, which we knew was coming, so we picked a location we could get to just before the ice hit.  Our timing was true, about 5 minutes from the hotel the sleet started.  We made a quick trip to Meijer before checking in to get supplies since we knew the only time we would be leaving the hotel was when we braved the storm for the sake of pizza.




The coffee pot is for my house, but it was such a good deal, I couldn’t pass it up.  Since I’m a suburban-mom-of-two, I was pretty stoked about this exciting start to our trip. Coffee! Coffee!

We checked into the hotel and hit the pool.  I ran laps through the water, while Mr. Grouch swam his.

“Are you just going to run the whole time?”

“Are you just going to swim?”

Mr. Grouch and I discussed how much it would cost to put in addition and an indoor pool in our house because we like to talk in depth about scenarios that have no chance of actually happening.

A mom and two kids, a boy probably around eight and the girl around six, walked into the pool area.  My eyes were drawn immediately to the six year old.  Her eyes were very wide-set.  Her teeth were widely spaced apart. Her ankles were hyper-mobile and her feet splayed slightly outward.

I smiled at her.


She waved, took off her cover up and put on her goggles.  She stepped to the edge of the pool.

“Jump out!” her mom reminded her.

The girl looked at me and asked, “Ready?” as she gave me the thumbs up signal.

“Ready!” I yelled, giving her a thumbs up in return.

Her brother dove for coins in the deep end while I ran and she swam and we kept going through our thumbs up routine every time she decided it was time to make a leap into the warm water.

“Brianne!” her brother called out, smiling as he showed her that he had captured all of the coins.


I thought of how Brianne looked happy, looked proud of herself for jumping in the pool and doing twists in the water.  I thought of how she confidently asked me, “Ready?”  I hoped that we as society don’t beat those traits out of her.

Because at some point, if it hasn’t started happening already, Brianne will be segregated from the group.  She’ll be separated from her peers and instead of thumbs up and “Ready!” responses from strangers, she’ll likely experience looks of derision.  Looks of pity.  Or worse, people will just look away.

It’s not right.

Brianne deserves to be a part of the group.  She deserves to be confident, happy, proud of who she is.  And we deserve to be graced with the gifts she brings.  Not just as a six year old.  But also as a teen.  As an adult.  The only way this can happen is if people choose to include. Include. Include. Include. Include.  How many of us include people with disabilities in our lives?  Not enough.  I know, it’s hard, because how does that begin?  We need to do a better job connecting those with disabilities with the communities they live in.

Whoa.  The pool wasn’t even that deep.  Time for some wine before dinner.


Our first stop on our tour was Fricano’s Pizza Tavern in Grand Haven.


Fricano’s claims to be the oldest pizzeria in Michigan.  Fricano’s is housed in an old home that had been converted into a restaurant and tavern.  It’s the kind of place that has only one menu item, a thin crust 12 inch pizza, that can be topped with up to 6 toppings. It’s the kind of place that only takes cash or check.  It’s the kind of place where the waitresses are women in their fifties and sixties, wearing white sweater sets and sitting at a table in front of the ovens drinking tea in between serving customers. It’s the kind of place that has many regulars, like the 5 year old who sat at the bar with his dad, and before anyone said anything, the bartender apologized to the kid for being out of apple juice.  It’s the kind of place with an unpretentious entrance that looks like this:


and side-orders that hang from the walls in columns like this:


The original flair is that Fricano’s cuts all of their pizzas with large scissors instead of pizza cutters. We watched the cook snip, snip, snip, before handing the pie off to our waitress.

We ordered the “Everything But” – all the toppings they offer minus anchovies.  The locals call this the E.B.A.  Even though we were in the middle of a sleet storm, the restaurant continued to fill up while we were there and many stacks of to-go orders were carried out the door.  One guy left with a tall stack that totaled 118.78.


The pizza was delicious.  The flavor of the sauce and the cheese was phenomenal (the ingredients are a highly-guarded secret), the toppings were fresh.  We scarfed that bad boy down pretty quickly.


Staring at the empty pan, Mr. Grouch said, “You should time-stamped those photos.  I think it’s only been about 6 minutes”.

“That was delicious”.

“Should we order another one?”


The waitress walked over, “Can I get you anything else?”

“Yes. Another pizza.  This time well-done”.

As we were waiting we both acknowledged that the half of the pizza we ate had left us pretty satisfied, without feeling overly full.  We were still very excited about the second pizza.

This is why we aren’t skinny.

Note the nice black edges.  The extra-crispy was extra-tasty.


Fricano’s Verdict:  What they lack in apostrophe, they make up for in flavor.


This luscious evening ended with a full belly and a book – I read 46% of a book that’s been waiting for me in my Kindle for months. Left Neglected. A friend of mine said the main character reminded her of me, but so far all I’ve gathered that means is that I’m a workaholic who doesn’t spend enough time with her kids or husband whose brain doesn’t work correctly. Hm. It’s a good read though, hoping to finish before going home.


When we planned this trip we assumed we’d be eating leftover pizza for breakfast. However we neglected to consider how truly gluttonous we are that we might not actually have leftovers.  So this morning we had to go get MORE food.  We have a favorite breakfast joint in Grand Haven called Morning Star Cafe. This place is amazing.  They’re known for their delicious cinnamon rolls (which we can vouch from previous experience ARE delish) but we opted out of that this year since we’ve got pizza on the agenda for later.  What you see below is what the not-so-skinny-but-happily-married-couple considers to be a light breakfast:


Two of the best things this place offers is 1) a full carafe of coffee at the table when you order a cup of joe. They also ask if you’d like a to go coffee when you leave.


And 2) the best damn hot sauce I’ve tasted.  The food was fantastic without it, but this sauce really put it over the edge. I’m already on the hunt to purchase a case or so of this stuff.  My husband buys his favorite hot sauce in half gallon jugs which I’ve made fun of, until now, since I’m going to start doing the same. We’ll need to clear out some space in order to devote an entire section of the pantry to hot sauce.


After breakfast I read more of my book (I’m reading a book!  This is vacation indeed!) – and am glad to discover that this workaholic woman is turning into a grateful, open-minded spirit who basically says, “Screw Normal”.

Cheers to that.


After breakfast we went back to the hotel for more vacation time.  Which pretty much looked like this:



And consisted of conversation like this:

“Why isn’t Hellen a word?”

“Because Helen is a name?”

“It’s not a name.  It’s a group of people”.

“Oh. Isn’t Hellenic is the word you’re thinking of”.

“No. It’s like American”.

“Yeah…you’d say I’m an American.  So you’re Hellenic”.

“Except I’m not A Hellenic.  I’m A Hellen”.

“I think nowadays you just say you’re Greek”.

“That’s stupid”.

A couple minutes later, “Why isn’t Elven a word?”

“Because elves aren’t real?”

“I’m pretty sure if I put elf, it would take it.  Or unicorn.  Unicorns aren’t real, and I can still play that’.

“That’s true”.

“Thank you!”

“This game is racist”.

“Against Hellenics and Elves?”

Hellens and Elves”.

“Elven should be a word.  I’m pretty sure they use it in Lord of the Rings about a million times”.

After deep conversations like these we hit the pool for a bit before heading to our next pizza joint, Bernie O’s.  Bernie O’s kind of looks like a dump from the outside (which is usually my sort of place) and it looks kind of like a freshly painted neat-ish dump on the inside.  The atmosphere doesn’t have a whole lot of character.  You order at the counter and sit down.  It’s the kind of place that has this vibe:


So, a touch like a hospital cafeteria vibe.  And then they were a little showy-offey about winning awards the last couple of years, unlike Fricano’s, who let the pizza speak for itself.


However, the food was nothing at all like hospital food.  We ordered their signature pizza, The Twist, which has apparently launched them into semi-pizza fame of late.  It’s an odd combination of toppings – chicken, bacon, jalapenos, banana peppers, pineapple and ranch dressing.

We took a bite and looked at each other’s reaction.

“Huh,” I said, with a small smile.  I am usually not a fan of pineapple on pizza, but the combination of ingredients surprised me by being much tastier than I anticipated.


“…huh,” he grinned back.

“Huh,” I stared at the pizza as I chewed.

“It’s good.  Weird, but good”.

“I think that’s the best way to describe this.  Oddly good”.

The couple of pieces were great, but the overall tone of the pizza was a little sweeter than I go for.  However, this place had one huge saving grace – and that is their pizza crust.  Their pizza crust was by far one of the best crusts we’ve ever eaten, it had the perfect crunch to it.

Bernie O’s verdict:  If you love pineapple, this is absolutely the pizza for you.  If not, still go to Bernie O’s for the crust, but get your favorite toppings.  And maybe take it to go.


On the way back to the hotel, Mr. Grouch says, “Only took an hour, start to finish”.

“That’s because we eat like pigs,” I reminded him.  “We’re a good match,” I added.

“We complement each other.  My awesomeness cancels out your annoyingness,” he chuckled.

“Oh my God,” I rolled my eyes.

“I keep losing weight and you keep gaining weight,” he adds, touching on a sore spot at the moment.

“That’s true”.

“Pretty soon we’re going to be able to share jeans”.

“Oh, shut up!” I admonish him, before reconsidering, “Well, actually, my parents can share jeans,” proving my point about us being as good a match as they are.

“I think we pretty much feel the opposite about everything”.

“We do.  Except the important things.  Like pizza tours”.



For our final day of this leg of the pizza tour we woke up and hit the pool one last time before checking out of the hotel.

“Coffee,” I said, as we hopped in the car.

“I know!  We talked about this four times yesterday, about getting coffee on the way”.

I just looked at him.

This is one of those you-have-to-be-married-to-get-this type of conversation.  When something benign like the word “coffee” drives the other person nuts.  After a while, the couples that make it figure out not to take that kind of overreaction personally.

I know we probably did talk about it four times, because my mother and my grandmother do the same thing, so it’s basically in my DNA to repeat the same exact information multiple times, which I completely understand IS annoying.  So I ignore the mini-rant and then he ignores my mini-rant later about how getting road rage is so ridiculous.

“Jesus Christ.  Is he really not going to let me in?  What a dick. I’m going to let in this red truck in too, just to piss him off”.

“Seriously?  How can you get worked up about driving?”

“I don’t get worked up about driving.  I get worked up when people are assholes”.

“People will always be assholes.  It doesn’t do you any good to get all pissed off, just plan on them being assholes and be okay with it”.

“Ah, the red truck turned the other way.  He got lucky”.

This is what a successful marriage looks like folks, getting pissy about coffee and driving and just moving on and leaving the piss behind.

We continued our drive and headed to Harmony Brewing Company for a late beer-and-pizza brunch.

The brewing co. was a small place, pretty cozy and cute.  Our waitress was a lovely little delight who chatted with us about the mlive pizza ranking process (apparently the guys tried pepperoni pizzas at each place they visited, to compare apples to apples, so to speak, along with whatever specialty pizza the staff recommended), and the movie Amelie (she thought I looked like her, and told me I missed out on “a gem of a movie” since I hadn’t seen it).  We talked about dyeing our hair to hide our grays (she was the same age as me) and how we were both Hop Heads, (people who love the hoppiest of beers.  She recommended their Crossroads IPA, and it was fabulous.  It was strong and hoppy, but had a much smoother finish and none of the bitter aftertaste compared to most of the hoppy beers I’ve tried.


We got The Crispy Pig and a Margherita pizza


Both were delicious, we both loved the sauce and the toppings.  The meat on the Crispy Pig was spectacular, particularly the prosciutto.  Mr. Grouch really liked the crust, but I didn’t think it was really anything special, it was a thin-crust, not super crunchy, and pretty floury tasting.

We listened to more White Buffalo on the way home and the vacation was over.  Immediately the girls were in our arms (Uppie!), demanding bananas and cups of water and wiping dripping noses on our shirts.  It’s a good thing they are so darn cute and their heads inexplicably smell like cinnamon.  Sniiiiiiiiiiiif. Ahhhhhh.

I managed to unpack the new coffee maker and make a fresh pot of coffee all with one hand, because my arms were full of cute (and highly needy) baby and Pegasus (or Peg-sis).


Cheers to gluttonous vacations with fantastic husbands.

A few days away is long enough.  After that we start missing the demands for attention and the weight in our arms and the cinnamon-smelling heads.

Cheers to being home.






When Easter Means More Than Easter

In my head, I sometimes envision the relationship Mr. Grouch and I have to be like that of oil and vinegar.  While the two are capable of meshing beautifully, each one’s flavors and textures complementing the other’s, they also have the natural ability to fight one another, slowly separating until jolted back together. The two of us are more than capable of arguing about anything and everything, no matter how trivial.  In fact, there seems to be an inverse correlation between the importance of a topic and how vigorously the two of us will argue about it. Who should clean the cat’s litter box?  Five minute argument. Immediate follow-up argument about whether or not the cat should continue to reside in our house at all (same argument we’ve been having for eight years)?  Thirty minute bitchfest.  Where to go for dinner (and/or who should decide where to go)? Borderline homicidal rager.  Even if we agree, we are most certainly still capable of disagreeing, all it takes is one of us to simply rearrange the grammatical structure of a sentence to do so, and we can continue to argue our points, even if we are both really saying the same thing.

It is very rare that our arguments are about legitimately important differences in opinion, philosophy, or point of view, we tend to be consistent when it comes to our most important values.  But in a few rare instances, it has happened.  One of such times occurred within the first couple of years of dating.  My husband is a very religious man and I am a staunch atheist.  We used to squabble about the legitimacy of the church, the credibility of religion, whether or not man evolved through the rugged process of natural selection, or was divinely created, and whether or not a God even existed at all. They were fruitless controversies, with no potential for a winner.  No compromise existed.

Until one did.

In what may have been the first true act of conciliation as a couple, my now-husband decided to end the counterproductive religious debates.  He bought me a stuffed gorilla and gave me a card in which he wrote something along the lines of, “Maybe we evolved, maybe we were created, only God knows.  Or does he?”  And that was that.  We decided to agree to disagree, and it has worked, for the most part, which is somewhat astounding, really, when you consider we argue about the best method for breading chicken, whether chocolates should be stored in the pantry or in the freezer and whether or not the person we are yelling at from across the house can’t actually hear us or is purposefully ignoring us.

The only bumps in the road have occurred around the holidays, Easter in particular.  My husband always wants to attend religious service, at the Greek Orthodox church, with me by his side, robotically performing my stavro (cross), repeating lines such as Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) and Alithos Anesti (truly he has risen), words that I don’t believe to be true.  Easter services are so much longer than the typical Sunday service, and so much less conveniently timed. We usually arrive at church around ten p.m., and do not leave until well after two in the morning.  Much of the service requires standing, and in my uncomfortable pumps, I can be seen continuously shifting my weight from side to side. The saving grace of these services is the choir, the music eerie and mournful and beautifully calming, and, thankfully, sung in Greek, so I can focus on the melody rather than the meaning of the words.

The main point of contention hasn’t been the timing of the services, or the quality or quantity of the music being played.  It has been the issue of respecting identities and beliefs.  I worried that by attending the mass, or performing the rituals, that I would be giving in, letting my husband walk all over me, turning into the wife whose ideas and beliefs are not valued, respected or, possibly, even considered.  I worried that my husband’s motives for my compliance were oily, spiteful and untrustworthy, and my reaction, in return, was acidic.

Ironically, by worrying about those things, and actively lashing out because of those anxieties, I was not valuing, respecting or considering the belief my husband held so dear. His religious identity is a pure and innocent one. I remember him asking me one time, if I would ask for forgiveness before I died. I didn’t understand why he would ask me this, my defensive self initially thought he was trying to tell me I was living my life the wrong way, or that he was trying to control me, right up to the very bitter end.  But, he clarified his intentions when he explained that he simply wanted to be with me for eternity and he was concerned that might would happen if I didn’t ask. Not quite the vicious motive or judgmental request my skeptical and anxious mind had first leapt to. His religion is an important piece of who he is. Being malicious and oppressive is not.  It took me awhile to fully grasp this, but once I did, I stopped kicking and screaming every time it was suggested that we go to church.  I stopped rolling my eyes when he asked me to perform my cross, and stopped complaining about the sporadic late-night holy services.

I don’t need to prove, time and time again, that I don’t believe. He already knows this, and has accepted it.  What I DO need to prove is that I am supportive of HIS belief. I’ve chosen him to be my partner, and being a married pair does not mean we have to be identical in our thinking, it means we need to support and complement one another, no matter what. This is what successful partnerships work on for the entire duration of their union and the couples that make it are the ones who get better at this over time, while the ones that don’t are bound to fail.

Once we became parents, the aspect of religion rose to the forefront once again. He feels strongly that our daughter be raised with exposure to the knowledge and culture the Orthodox Church provides. Thankfully, my views have evolved since our early debates on the subject, so I fully support this as part of her well-rounded upbringing.  Not only is it successful partnerships that rely on advocating and augmenting each other, but strong and successful families as well.

In the long run, I want my daughters to find counterparts who enhance them, I want them to be engaged in balanced and harmonious relationships.  Marriage is akin to the back and forth readjustments of two individuals in motion on either side of a teeter-totter. One is strong, when the other becomes weak, one is a comfort, when the other is distraught, one steps up when the other falls down.  Every now and again the two weights on each end are exactly balanced, hovering equidistant from the ground, but usually that’s not the case, and that is ok, as long as there is an ebb and flow, and one person doesn’t jump off their seat, leaving the other stranded.

If kind of give-and-take relationship is what I want for my daughters, I had better be sure my spouse and I model it.

Awhile back I finally let my guard down and began the process of acting lilke the woman I wanted to be.  My husband brought up the fact that we had not yet had our house blessed since moving in.  I reminded him that he can have the house blessed if he wants, and to do it anytime.  It’s not something I would do, but I certainly am not going to stop him, if it is something he feels he needs to do.  Instead of calling, he decided to open up the church incense he keeps, and he set it aflame, causing its scent to permeate through the kitchen and living room.  The incense is strong, and I have a sensitive nose. In the past, this combination has sometimes resulted in me leaving the room soon after his religious flare is lit.  But, it had been awhile since I had been exposed to this spiritual scent, and this time, the bouquet really wasn’t so bad, in fact, it may have registered within my nares as sweetly pleasing.  Maybe it was because our new home is more spacious, or maybe it was because our years of teetering and tottering back and forth, balancing the ups and downs of our relationship, have stirred the two of us to the point where our separateness is not so clearly delineated, and we, like the oil and the vinegar, have created an evenly blended suspension, our relationship a healthy emotional emulsion.  Instead of coughing and gagging, I crossed myself three times with my right hand, placed my hand on my heart before wafting the fumes towards my nose, like I knew he wanted me to, for myself and for the child growing inside me at the time.


Instead of fighting the holidays because of their inherent religiousness I have vowed to embrace them, for the good of our family. They are often centered around a religious aspect at their root, but most of the reality of the holidays is centered around family time, togetherness and bonding.

I find this to be true even while at church. My husband and his family sit packed near each other, taking up two or three full pews, so moments of laughter or the hushed exchange of words inevitably occurs throughout the service.  At at least one point during the service, husband finds my hand with his and squeezes it, and the two of us share a moment of calm reflection that reminds us we are grateful for one another, and the serene space provides a venue conducive to letting each other know.  At the midnight service this Easter, my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter found the choir to be as compelling as I often do.  Though this was the first time she heard the music, she attempted to sing along and she looked at me, my mouth not moving, and instructed me to, “Sing, mama.  Sing”. She wasn’t asking me to sing to prove my devotion to a higher being, she was asking me to share in the beauty and connect with her by singing together. We sing at home, in the park, in the car, why would I not sing with her at church? Well, okay, the fact that I don’t speak Greek does make it a little harder, since I dont know all of the words, but that didn’t stop me from humming along, singing the few words I could make out, while my face pressed close to hers, enjoying every precious note.

Am I worried my child will be brainwashed into believing something I do not?  Not really.  If we do our job right as parents, she’ll be brainwashed to love and care for others, to help those in need, to respect differing viewpoints, and to expect nothing less than love, encouragment and support from the person she chooses to spend her life with.  None of these are dependent on whether or not she is celebrating the religious aspect of a holiday or if she believes in Heaven or Hell.  She can decide for herself what the holidays mean, to her, and in the meantime, my husband and I will model what it means for us, our internal interpretations so very different, yet the outward expression so much the same.

As dissimilar as oil and vinegar may be, if they are passionately stirred, they meld and create a glorious pairing.  My spouse and I are on a joint mission to create a personified vinaigarette, one so vibrant and robust that it is easy to forget that the there are separate entities making up the whole.  And that’s the ultimate goal, for many of us, to create a household and a family that is harmonious and balanced, full of unconditional love and support.  It’s what so many of us incorporate into our view of what it means to be a good parent, on the holidays, and on all of the days in between.

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