Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sitting Under The Swamp Cooler

It has been a very hot summer, which has made me remember back to a hot summer when I was a very, very small child of about two years old. I actually have a few memories of being that age and they mostly entail getting into trouble, which I did A LOT. I was kind of a handful, as I understand it. I still am. Haha.

Anyway, when I was a small child, my family lived in Sacramento, which is like hell in the summertime, temperature-wise. And back in the day, there was no air conditioning, so there was in our house what was referred to as a "swamp cooler." I have no idea what the thing really was or how it worked, but I remember that it was in the ceiling of our hallway. And it dripped. A lot. I don't think it was actually supposed to drip, but it did. So, naturally, in my two-year-old wisdom, during a summertime that was as hot as hell, I decided to sit under it. It was wonderful. I remember sitting under it and being so refreshed, as the cool water drip-drip-dripped onto my head.

My mother had told me not to sit under the swamp cooler. I have no idea why, but it was against her house rules. If you knew my mother, though, you will remember that she was an exceedingly neat, tidy person, who did not abide utilizing things for purposes for which they were not designed. And I suppose that the idea of her two-year-old daughter, all dressed in her cute summer outfit, with her hair neatly combed and held in place by a darling bow-shaped plastic barrette, sitting under a malfunctioning swamp cooler, just totally rubbed her the wrong way.

Even at that age, though, I had my own mind. And dammit if I wasn't going to sit under the dripping swamp cooler when the house was a fucking 104 degrees, or some nonsense like that. I, of course, did not know the word "fucking" at two years old. I did know the word "dammit," because that one was popular with my mother. But my toddler brain formed thoughts that definitely included the sentiments those words imply. Also, it was fun to sit under the swamp cooler and get wet. So, I would sneak into the hall and plant myself under the forbidden treasure, cooling myself off and having a grand old time until my mother inevitably found me. I knew she would find me, but I didn't really care.

I did care, though, about the spanking I got, but it was not enough to dissuade me from my mission of sitting under the swamp cooler. My mom was big on spankings, so I kinda learned to ignore them, especially when I thought The Rules were lame. I always had big and very self-confident opinions on The Rules, as I still do. If you know me, you know this about me. Fear of punishment is not an adequate motivation to keep me from disobeying The Rules, if I think they are lame.

When I grew up, my mom apologized about the spankings. She also apologized for "stifling" me. She would say, "We probably stifled you too much. But, I had never known a kid like you and I didn't know what to do." It's okay mom, I know I'm sort of a weirdo. ;-)

My dad must have fixed the swamp cooler, eventually, thus causing me to find some other way to get into trouble, which I inevitably did.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Family Story

I come from a very colorful family. I think about this a lot, but a little incident today reminded me of one particularly colorful anecdote.

I shall tell you about it. ;D

My dad's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy back in the early 1920's. My mom's dad was 100% Italian and my mom's mother was 100% Irish. On St. Patrick's Day, I was thinking about the grandness of immigration, so I wrote on Twitter: "I am one quarter Irish and three quarters Italian. Magic like that doesn't happen without immigrants." Feeling happy inside, I went about my St. Paddy's Day, celebrating with a bit of Maker's Mark in the evening.

Anyway... Today, some cranky dude found my remark and evidently wanted to rain on my parade, so he replied: "No. ur 100% (insert American flag emoji here) and don't forget that! U didn't come off the boat and ur family did it the legal way"

Of course, I should have ignored this cranky dude, who is probably worried about his health insurance, but I didn't ignore him, because it is hard for me to ignore stuff. So, I said: "Actually, my grandpa did not exactly do it the legal way and almost got deported. (insert winky face emoji here) #ImmigrantsForeva"

The poor man (who was probably home sick with the flu and wondering if he will still have hospital coverage in 2018) apparently was not in the mood for me and my friendly attitude, and he came back with: "ur a retard for even responding with that! Mine did and is listed at Ellis Island. U should be ashamed"

Unbeknownst to my fellow second-generation American, I don't really shame that easily.  So, I said: "Mine is, too, actually. It's a long story, from long ago. All my best to you." And then I closed with: "And -- yes -- I am (insert American flag emoji here), but I'm very proud of my Italian/Irish heritage. It is part of my identity."

Then the dude did not say anything else, because -- after all -- we women of Italian/Irish descent can be very exasperating.

I will now fill in the blanks of this story for you, so you will know how I almost didn't get the chance to exist and have the opportunity to entertain and exasperate you.

The grandfather to whom I am referring in the conversation above was my dad's father. He was a very unique individual -- full of fun and mischief. He grew up with my grandmother in a little village in Italy, and I guess he was quite smitten with her, because when she decided to come to America, he decided to follow her.

Initially, all was kosher. She was sponsored by some of her relatives already living in this country, and he was sponsored by some of his relatives. (They were not married, as yet, being only 18, or so.) My grandmother arrived here first, landing at Ellis Island. My grandfather followed a while later. And I guess when you arrived, you were asked by the immigration authorities about your destination and who was meeting you. The information you gave was supposed to match up with your application paperwork. My grandfather, though, wanting to be with my grandmother, gave them her family's name. He told me that he was then led to another facility, where he thought he would meet up with my grandmother's relatives. Unbeknownst to him, though, this facility was a jail and he was going to be shipped back to Italy forth-with. He just sat there quite contentedly -- with no idea of the fate which was set to befall him. Thankfully, various family members on both his and my grandmother's side somehow figured out what had happened and paid a visit to the immigration authorities to straighten everything out. It was my impression that some kind of bribe was involved, but I'm unsure. My grandfather was set free, heading home with his relatives for a nice meal and a good scolding of the kind only full-blooded Italian women can deliver.

My grandfather was, indeed, a rascal. All. His. Life. He even made moonshine during prohibition. Heck, he did a lot of crazy things. He was a decent guy, though. He never hurt anybody and -- together with my grandmother (who was an outstanding saint of a woman) -- raised an excellent son and daughter. His children's children all went to college. Our family is very close and fun and -- surprisingly -- VERY law-abiding.

So, here's to the immigrants! (Even the ones who don't take a completely straight and narrow road to get here.) <3


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

For The Rebel Children

I, myself, am a rebel, just so you know.

And a couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being a chaperone on our parish's Confirmation retreat. If you don't know, Catholic kids receive the Sacrament of Confirmation sometime during their high school years; and before that occasion, they usually attend a retreat in order to prepare and reflect upon the graces they will receive from that Sacrament, as well as what it means to be a Catholic.

The retreat that I helped with was a very good one. It included prayer and music and speakers -- including teen speakers -- and Mass and Confession and Eucharistic adoration. It was very well-run and the kids seemed to enjoy it.

There were some kids there though, who were rebels, in the best sense of the word. These kids are people who question the status quo, who have merciful hearts, who have a great sense of justice, who are compassionate, who are creative. And they don't always like what they are seeing in the Catholic Church.

And I guess what concerns me is that these kids didn't seem to get much of a chance to have their voices heard during this retreat. It seemed to be, basically, assumed by the retreat organizer that everyone was on the same page concerning the moral authority of Church teaching. And these kids were very well-behaved, not really wanting to make waves.

But -- you know -- if we Catholic "grown-ups" aren't careful, we will lose these kids. Because these kids are smart and their questions are legitimate ones and they are not being answered. Oftentimes, too, the Church (at least where I live) doesn't act in a way that is very tolerant of different points of view. So, if a kid does have the guts to speak up and ask a difficult question, they might be given a solid answer, but that answer comes with the attitude that "it's this way or the highway." And that's not how it should be. Not everything is black and white in the application of Church teaching. There is the primacy of conscience. So, we need to be careful. The Church needs these young people. They are strong and they are smart and they are good. And they need to be taught in a way that respects their intelligence and their sense of justice and their compassion. They need to be taught in a way that respects their consciences and their creativity. Yes, we need to teach them Church doctrine accurately, but there needs to be space for discussion. AND they -- the rebel children -- need to know that we want them in the Church. At least I want them in the Church.

Why?

Because rebels bring fresh perspectives and honesty. They force us to look at ourselves. They shake things up; they force us to clean things up. They remind us of what is essential. They encourage us to behave respectfully toward different kinds of people. They keep us from living in an echo chamber.

So, my prayer for the rebel children receiving Confirmation is that the Holy Spirit will assure them of God's unconditional love for them and give them the graces of wisdom and understanding and confidence that their voices matter in the Church and in the world.

God bless the rebel children. Amen.




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thinking About Some Stuff

For years, I homeschooled my kids. Thus, for years, I was around many men (and women, too) who spoke about how the liberals want to destroy traditional marriage and how the LGBT people want to "come after" them and take away their religious freedom, how abortion is like the Holocaust, how Michele Obama's talk of being a "citizen of the world" is terribly unpatriotic, how Obama is not really an American and hates Christians, how we need to own firearms and build bunkers for when the evil "government" will inevitably attack us in our own homes and drag us away to camps, how the evil Muslims and other anti-Christian forces will shoot us as we try to go into church, how gay men "recruit" young boys to become gay (the head of a homeschool organization once said this to me), how Planned Parenthood is an "evil organization," how women who say they need contraception simply have no self-control when it comes to their sex drives, how contraception is not "health care," how feminism ruined the family, ad nauseum. There is even a Catholic homeschool textbook that I read once, which basically explains how the country was just so wonderful, UNTIL the "Liberals" (yes -- with a capital "L") ruined everything. It was the most ridiculous textbook I have ever seen and it horrified me, but many of the Catholic homeschoolers used it.

I used to feel ill upon hearing these kinds of things. I generally didn't say much, because there was nothing I could say. The one time I did say something about someone's ridiculous and dangerous end-times prophecies, one of the homeschooled kids asked her mom if I was some kind of category of sinner that they had recently learned about in religion class. Thankfully, her mother was kind of horrified, and told her "No." But, I think a fair number of the homeschoolers viewed me as not appropriately conservative. A lot of them really liked me, but I did get side-eyes from some. And if I had opened my mouth more, I probably wouldn't have had any friends, and neither would my kids. At the time, I was actually more conservative than I am now, so I probably just couldn't have homeschooled my kids, if I had to do it over again, because I would just be upset all the time.

I feel bad, though, that I never spoke up more forcefully about the ideas I knew were erroneous. As I said, I was afraid that if I truly spoke my mind, my kids wouldn't have many friends. I didn't want to rock the boat, too much. Also, I kind of figured that these were fringe ideas, and probably wouldn't gain much traction in the general population, so I wasn't too worried about it.

Well...

BOY, WAS I WRONG.

And the thing that is really upsetting to me is that most of these people were really good people. They wanted to do the right thing. And they have been completely hoodwinked by stuff like The Drudge Report and Breitbart and right-wing radio. And I really don't have a good answer to the problem, because it is practically impossible to get them to see things from any other angle than the right-wing conservative one. I been trying for a while now. They have basically been trained to think that the progressive view point is almost -- if not actually -- demonic. A lot of them probably would consider it a genuine sin to be "tempted" by progressive views.

Now, I am not saying that it is necessary to think abortion is a moral good. When I think about abortion, I feel like I am getting stabbed through the heart with an ice pick. But, it is not the same thing as the Holocaust. In this country, at least, nobody is lining women up and forcing them into abortion clinics. You have every right NOT to have an abortion. You have every right to help others who are in crisis pregnancies and do not wish to have abortions. Faith leaders have every right to explain why their religions teach against abortion. And pro-choice people in this country OVERWHELMINGLY do not believe in forced abortions or forced sterilizations. And -- frankly -- the thought of Mr. Trump or Mr. Gingrich or Mr. Bannon making decisions for me about my reproductive health is downright scary. And that is the point of the contemporary pro-choice movement. You do not have to embrace the pro-choice movement, but at least don't misrepresent it in ways that enable the rise of dangerous demagogues.

And I am not saying that it is necessary to be a progressive. There are many good things about conservative ideas. When done right, they prevent government power from getting out-of-hand. And we should always be wary of government power that gets out-of-hand.

But, for the sake of sanity, people -- LOOK AT WHAT IS GOING ON. IT IS NOT GOOD FOR ANYBODY. I feel for those who have been left behind in the global economy and who feel their voices are not heard. These people need to be heard. They need to be helped. But, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Pax.

Monday, November 14, 2016

This Thing I Did In 8th Grade

When I was in third grade (I know I said I was going to write about something I did in 8th grade, but this is the necessary backstory), I went to a new school. The Catholic elementary school I attended for 1st and 2nd grades closed, much to my horror, because I was very happy at that school, so my parents sent me to the Catholic elementary school one town over. And -- frankly -- I was miserable at that school. It was awful for me. I got bullied incessantly all through 3rd grade. I had no idea what I did to deserve it, and I was too young to realize that being bullied is never the fault of the victim. The horrible bullying died down in 4th grade, and beyond, but I never really -- shall we say -- "fit in with the 'in' crowd." I  didn't care all that much, because I had a wonderful, marvelous, big, extended Italian family. That family provided me with all the support and companionship anyone could hope to have. And I did manage to make a few very close friends at school, even though the class I was in still contained a pretty big percentage of bullies. I managed to keep the bullies off my back -- and my friends' backs, to some degree -- by being willing to punch them, when necessary. Of course, nowadays I would have gotten suspended, but this was in the 70's, so... ya know... things were different. And the teachers in that school never did anything to help us victims of bullies, and the bullies didn't seem to be interested in my powerful words, so the power of the fist prevailed.

My day-to-day life in this particular Catholic school, combined with the support of my Italian family, served to have a certain effect on me. And the effect was this: I learned to not really give an "f" about what people thought of me. If I was happy with myself, that was enough. And -- of course -- my good friends in that school made my heart happy. I have also always had a very strong spiritual life, and Jesus has always hung with me, no matter what. Sometimes, certain people try to make me feel like Jesus is unhappy with me, but I have learned to ignore those people. My parents were EXCELLENT teachers of conscience formation -- I really have never known anyone who is better at that task -- so, I know when mean, judgy people just need to be blown off.

Anyway...

This is what happened when I was in the 8th grade...

My teacher decided that it would be a good idea to have a class debate about abortion rights. The anti-abortion-rights team was quickly populated, but ABSOLUTELY NOBODY wanted to be on the pro-abortion-rights team. So, me -- being who I am and not giving an "f" about what anybody would think of me -- volunteered to be on that team. And it ended up that I was the ONLY person on that team. Everybody looked at me in the most judgy way, but -- hey -- you cannot have a debate without both sides being represented, and I understood that, even if none of the other Catholic school 8th graders did.

So, I went to the library (because there was no internet in those days) and scoured the place for information on why people thought abortion should be legal (because nobody had ever told me why people thought abortion should be legal). My family was very Italian and very Catholic. Nobody in my family could be described, even vaguely, as an "anti-abortion activist," but my grandmother put the family philosophy very simply -- "It's okay to keep them from getting there (meaning: contraception is okay), but once they are there, you leave them alone." End of conversation. And I was cool with that. I also must say that NOBODY in my family had any objection to me supporting the pro-abortion-rights side in the debate. My family was pretty awesome about bipartisanship. Therefore, I researched the heck out of the subject (I was determined to win, after all), and I prepared, and I rehearsed, and I pretty much destroyed the anti-abortion-rights side in that debate. The arguments the other side used were lame-ass. Admittedly, they were a bunch of Catholic school 8th graders, so there's that.

After that debate, I was pretty much treated like a pariah by my classmates. But, everyone recovered quickly. My class was, actually, fairly good about not holding grudges, and there was kickball to be played.

I learned a lot of important things from that experience, and one of them was what it is like to be treated like a pariah for your opinions. Because -- in my Italian family -- nobody ever got treated like a pariah, even the hippie cousins who hitchhiked around the country and didn't have jobs and espoused communism. They were still welcomed with open arms for dinner and card games and all kinds of fun. My dad did tell me, though, that I was not allowed to be a hitchhiking, unemployed, hippie communist; but, he did say that my cousins were really "nice kids." My dad was probably the most awesome person, EVER.

Anyhow, to tell you the truth, I was pretty amused by everyone's reaction to me after that debate. As I said, I had learned, over the years, not to give an "f" about what people thought of me, as long as I had searched by conscience and believed in myself.

I'm not exactly sure what my point is in telling you this story. It just came to mind today, and I felt like telling it, so I did. ;-)

Pax.









This Thing I Did In 8th Grade

When I was in third grade (I know I said I was going to write about something I did in 8th grade, but this is the necessary backstory), I went to a new school. The Catholic elementary school I attended for 1st and 2nd grade closed, much to my horror, because I was very happy at that school, so my parents sent me to the Catholic elementary school one town over. And -- frankly -- I was miserable at that school. It was awful for me. I got bullied incessantly all through 3rd grade. I had no idea what I did to deserve it, and I was too young to realize that being bullied is never the fault of the victim. The horrible bullying died down in 4th grade, and beyond, but I never really -- shall we say -- "fit in with the 'in' crowd." I really didn't care all that much, because I had a wonderful, marvelous, big, extended Italian family. That family provided me with all the support and companionship anyone could hope to have. And I did manage to make a few very close friends at school, even though the class I was in still contained a pretty big percentage of bullies. I managed to keep the bullies off my back -- and my friends' backs, to some degree -- by being willing to punch them, when necessary. Of course, nowadays I would have gotten suspended, but this was in the 70's, so... ya know... things were different. And the teachers in that school never did anything to help us victims of bullies, and the bullies didn't seem to be interested in my powerful words, so power of the fist prevailed.

My day-to-day life in this particular Catholic school, combined with the support of my Italian family, served to have a certain effect on me. And the effect was this: I learned to not really give an "f" about what people thought of me. If I was happy with myself, that was enough. And -- of course -- my good friends in that school made my heart happy. I have also always had a very strong spiritual life, and Jesus has always hung with me, no matter what. Sometimes, certain people try to make me feel like Jesus is unhappy with me, but I have learned to ignore those people. My parents were EXCELLENT teachers of conscience formation -- I really have never known anyone who is better at that task -- so, I know when mean, judgy people just need to be blown off.

Anyway...

This is what happened when I was in the 8th grade...

My teacher decided that it would be a good idea to have a class debate about abortion rights. The anti-abortion-rights team was quickly populated, but ABSOLUTELY NOBODY wanted to be on the pro-abortion-rights team. So, me -- being who I am and not giving an "f" about what anybody would think of me -- volunteered to be on that team. And it ended up that I was the ONLY person on that team. Everybody looked at me in the most judgy way, but -- hey -- you cannot have a debate without both sides being represented, and I understood that, even if none of the other Catholic school 8th graders did.

So, I went to the library (because there was no internet in those days) and scoured the place for information on why people thought abortion should be legal (because nobody had ever told me why people thought abortion should be legal). My family was very Italian and very Catholic. Nobody in my family could be described, even vaguely, as an "anti-abortion activist," but my grandmother put the family philosophy very simply -- "It's okay to keep them from getting there (meaning: contraception is okay), but once they are there, you leave them alone." End of conversation. And I was cool with that. I also must say that NOBODY in my family had any objection to me supporting the pro-abortion-rights side in the debate. My family was pretty awesome about bipartisanship. Therefore, I researched the heck out of the subject (I was determined to win, after all), and I prepared, and I rehearsed, and I pretty much destroyed the anti-abortion-rights side in that debate. The arguments the other side used were lame-ass. Admittedly, they were a bunch of Catholic school 8th graders, so there's that.

After that debate, I was pretty much treated like a pariah by my classmates. But, everyone recovered quickly. My class was, actually, fairly good about not holding grudges, and there was kickball to be played.

I learned a lot of important things from that experience, and one of them was what it is like to be treated like a pariah for your opinions. Because -- in my Italian family -- nobody ever got treated like a pariah, even the hippie cousins who hitchhiked around the country and didn't have jobs and espoused communism. They were still welcomed with open arms for dinner and card games and all kinds of fun. My dad did tell me, though, that I was not allowed to be a hitchhiking, unemployed, hippie communist; but, he did say that my cousins were really "nice kids." My dad was probably the most awesome person, EVER.

Anyhow, to tell you the truth, I was pretty amused by everyone's reaction to me after that debate. As I said, I had learned, over the years, not to give an "f" about what people thought of me, as long as I had searched by conscience and believed in myself.

I'm not exactly sure what my point is in telling you this story. It just came to mind today, and I felt like telling it, so I did. ;-)

Pax.









Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Cantaloupe, The Heat, And My Mom

My mom and I sometimes had a cantankerous relationship. Because she was a cantankerous lady. And I am a cantankerous lady. She was also a bad-ass broad, and she tried to teach my sisters and I to be bad-ass broads, too. I am hoping that she succeeded, at least a little bit.

I thought of my mom this morning, because when I woke up, I could tell the day was going to be very hot (108 degrees, baby); and when I came down the stairs, I could smell the ripe cantaloupe on my kitchen counter. My mom's kitchen always smelled like ripe cantaloupe on hot summer days, because cantaloupe was one of her favorite fruits to buy in the summertime.

And I loved summertime at my mom and dad's house. There was no school and -- being that my mom was not "into" signing my sisters and I up for activities (the exception to this rule being swimming lessons, because my mom was a bad-ass life guard in her youth) -- summer was always very relaxing. My sisters and I would eat cantaloupe and watch the soaps with my Nana (who lived across the street) and read books and walk our dog and clean the house once a week. My mom was a stickler about having us clean the house once a week, which was quite fair and all, as we really didn't have to do much else, as far as chores went. We did clear the table, but we weren't allowed to load the dishwasher, because -- according to my mom -- we would inevitably do it wrong. We also washed the dog and cat bowls after they ate. And we would put our laundry away after my mom folded it and laid it out on the kitchen table for us. We weren't allowed to do our laundry, either, because my mom said that we would inevitably overflow the drain field (there were no sewers where we lived), and she was probably right about that. We were also expected to keep our stuff cleaned up, as my mom was very tidy. All in all, a pretty light amount of chores, I'd say. So, summer was very relaxing.

And that was so AWESOME, because I am a rather high-strung person in my nervous system, and I HATED school. I just HATED it. I went to Catholic school, where none of the teachers knew how to teach math, because they were all humanities majors. So, I sucked at math. Both because the teachers had no clue as to how to teach it and also because I had no natural talent in that area. I finally started to understand math when I was about 12 years old, but that was A LOT of years in which I suffered through the whole thing at Catholic school. I also sucked at science, probably also because the teachers were all humanities majors and didn't really understand science, themselves, let alone know how to teach it. In high school, I did well in both math and science, but it was a public school, where the teachers had actually majored in the subjects they taught (mostly, anyway). I also hated Catholic school because we had to wear wool skirts, no matter how goddam hot it was. And there was no air conditioning, or even fans, because -- in those days -- Catholic schools had no $$$. Now, Catholic schools charge people like a gazillion dollars a year, so I take it that maybe they can afford air conditioning (or fans, at least.) Maybe they can even afford teachers who know how to teach science and math. I bet Catholic schools still kind of suck, though, especially for people like me. I am an INFJ, and Catholic schools and INFJ's don't really go that well together, I don't think. Also, in the winter, it was goddam freezing in that school, because the boiler was always broken and my parents couldn't afford the "official" uniform sweater, so I wasn't allowed to wear my regular sweater (which was even the right color), even though there was no heat and it was goddam freezing in that school. I would be all shivering, with goose bumps, but did the humanities major teachers allow me to wear my regular sweater (which was even the right color)??? No. No, they did not. Because it was against the rules. And in Catholic schools, the rules are fucking EVERYTHING. I was so happy to go to a public high school, where I was treated in an actual Christian fashion by my secular humanist teachers. Thank God for secular humanist teachers. (Okay. To be fair, many of my public high school teachers were religious, but very few of them were Catholic. Thanks be to God.)

So, as you can see, summertime at home with virtually no activities and attire composed of shorts (which my mother sewed for us) and halter tops (which my mother also sewed for us) and cantaloupe eating and swimming in bikinis (which my mother allowed us to wear) were actually Heaven to me and my rather high-strung personality.

One of my favorite activities in the summertime was playing with the Barbie swimming pool. This was a lovely and relaxing game for me and my high-strung personality, because it was so mindless and involved Barbie, who I could always relate to. Why could I relate to Barbie? Not so much because of her magnificent boobs, but because she was -- in those days -- also bad at math. SO relatable for me. I actually thought that when I became a teenager, I would grow boobs like Barbie, so that ended up being kind of a disappointment to me, but those are the valuable lessons that childhood games teach us.

Anyway... Back to the Barbie swimming pool game.

When I was a little girl, my dad built a little deck/patio in our back yard. And when it was sweltering hot, my sisters and I ate some cantaloupe for a snack after our swimming lesson, and then we were allowed to fill the Barbie swimming pool with the hose and have our Barbies go for a swim. We weren't allowed to fill the Barbie swimming pool with actual water in the wintertime, because... Well, duh... Wintertime. But, when the thermometer went over 90 or 100 degrees in the summer, we were allowed to use actual water. And we had great fun having swimming games with our Barbies. One of my favorite games was to pretend that one of the Barbies was drowning and having another Barbie rescue her. We thought up this game after observing the life guard at swimming lessons.

Another wonderful Barbie game (that could be played in any season, because it was an indoor game, not involving water) was "Earthquake." My sisters and I would devise a makeshift townhouse in one of our baby buggies. This baby buggy would not be mine, of course, because I was the oldest and knew that this game was not really good for our buggies. My youngest sister didn't allow her buggy to be used for this purpose, either, because she was wise beyond her years. That left the townhouse to be devised in the buggy of our oft-abused middle sister, who was really nice about it. She is actually probably the brightest of the three of us, but is also the most generous. After devising the makeshift townhouse in our oft-abused middle sister's ill-fated buggy, we would arrange our Barbies in it and pretend they were hanging out at home, unaware that tragedy was about to strike. Then we would shake the buggy back-and-forth and up-and-down and scream and yell, pretending the "Big One" had hit. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we were always hearing about the "Big One," and it seemed like an idea that would make an amazing Barbie game. And it did. Eventually, the middle Argenti sister's buggy would sway back and forth every time it was pushed, even when it was being pushed in a simple linear fashion. My sister didn't really like this development, but -- being that I was kind of a douchy older sister -- I think I convinced her that it was actually really cool that the buggy swayed like that.

So, as you can see, summer was AWESOME at my house, when I was a kid. It was fun and relaxing and SO incredibly un-demanding. I wish more kids had the opportunity to experience this kind of summer. I hated it when school started again. And I have my mom to thank for this. Thank-you mom for all of those wonderful summers. I am so grateful that the bright sun in the sky this morning and the smell of the ripe cantaloupe in my kitchen reminded me of this gift. I hope you are having a great time up in Heaven, partying it up with Chris Bruno's mom.

Oh, and here is one more cool thing my mom would do in the summer. She always read her book after lunch, and she would read it aloud to us, if we wanted to hang out in the living room and listen. These were "grown-up" books, and I so much enjoyed hearing them. One of them was Rose Kennedy's autobiography, which is so much fun! If you haven't read it, you should, even though it is old and doesn't talk about Joe and Jack's affairs. I am quite sure Rose knew about them, because she was the farthest thing from an idiot, but she told her story sans all the crap. And it is delightful! I actually had my kids read this book when they were growing up, and I think they all enjoyed it. And they learned a lot, too. Because -- after all -- there really is more to the Kennedy family than Joe and Jack's inability to keep it zipped. And those good things need to be remembered. And Rose was a DELIGHTFUL story-teller. I bet Rose and my mom and Nancy Bruno are all up in Heaven, partying together, as a matter of fact. Another book that I remember my mother reading aloud to us was "The Making Of A Surgeon." This was a book written by a surgeon, and the title is fairly self-explanatory. I found it all so fascinating and actually thought about becoming a surgeon, myself. Which I didn't, because it involved WAY to much math and physics. Even though I was a biology major and was, actually, fairly proficient in math because of my non-Catholic high school teachers, physics was never really my bag. But, the story this guy told about his journey to becoming a surgeon was incredible, and I so much enjoyed it. So, the lesson here is that you should read books to your kids that aren't necessarily kids' books or even the classics. Pop-culture stories can be quite educational and memorable for children.

Rest in peace, Mom. And thanks a million times over for everything!