4 0 2

402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Category: Family

Day 394: Things I Learned from My Fish

Brian Boitano passed away yesterday (the fish, not the human). I have yet to confirm his passing with my own eyes, but after responding affirmatively to my are-you-sure-he-isn’t-just-playing-dead questions, his trusted fish sitter has convinced me he is gone.

I feel sad about this. It’s easy for humans to feel attached to warm, furry things that remind us of cute little babies – but we do develop love and affection for the slimier species as well. Brian was a good fish and I miss him.

In his honor, here’s a list of four things I learned from the sometimes aggressive, sometimes lethargic, but always-graceful Brian Boitano.

Everybody feels better around plants. I couldn’t put real plants in Brian’s water (mold and the like – you know how it is), but when I moved his bowl to sit right next to my ivy plant, he recognized the green leaves and snuggled right up to them. Nature soothes, and is an important and often absent element to city life (or giant pickle-jar life, in Brian’s case).

Never underestimate the power of clean water. It probably sounds trite for me to say that watching my fish enjoy his monthly clean-water exchange gave me a higher sense of purpose when it comes to global water issues, but it’s true. Clean water is a precious resource and an absolute necessity that one in nine people do not currently have access to. For information on seven organizations committed to clean water access, water education and/or sustainable water use, check out this list from goodnet.org.

Lying around all the time is never a good thing. If you find yourself too tired to exercise, explore your world or eat, you’re in trouble. Mix it up and adjust your life before it’s too late.

Pink can be pretty and strong at the same time. Brian’s wavy fins would make beautiful sweeps and flourishes around the bowl (before he started lying around all the time), but he could probably bite your finger off if he really tried. He moved his marbles around, no problem. So the next time your little kid wants to wear a pink dress and climb a tree, just think of Brian. It’s totally cool.

YoungBrian(That’s Brian.)

Day 311: To My Sister on Her 19th Day of Marriage

Dear Sister,

Congratulations. Not because you’re married now, and not because you threw an amazing party that your guests begrudgingly left high on laughter and wine and still super sweaty from dancing to What Does the Fox Say.

Congratulations because you’re a thoughtful, intelligent, funny, caring, dedicated, driven and beautiful person. And you married a guy who respects, challenges and loves you. I am proud to call him my brother.

Watching you on your wedding day reminded me how incredibly lucky I am to be your (slightly older and incredibly knowledgable) sister. But mostly your friend. You move through life with a sort of fierce grace that I so admire.

Since I neglected to leave these at the wedding itself, here are my wishes for you and my new little bro:

May you foster a bright light in each other. May you feed the light’s flame should it ever start to dim.

May you help each other grow, with the wisdom that you can grow in different and complementary ways.

May you let the little things go. May you respect the big things.

May you laugh and laugh and laugh.

May you not try to change each other. May you commit to constant personal growth instead.

May you create a safe and welcoming space for each other.

May you support each other’s interests but not each other’s habits.

May you always think quirks are cute.

May you celebrate the beautiful world together. May you cry sometimes, too.

May you pause often and let angry words float quietly away.

May you understand each other’s needs. May you respect that your partner’s needs may be different than yours.

May you work and relax.

And may you always remember that you have two sisters, two brothers and a host of other lovelies who are there for you anytime you need really good advice, dance instruction, booze, a good book, an arm to lean on, pizza, a doctor, perspective, funny jokes and/or an open ear. We’re only an instant phone call or a short plane ride away.

My sister's wedding(Also, thanks for picking out the killer bridesmaid dresses. Love, Ashleigh)

Day 204: He’ll Make it if it Starts with “P”

As part of my job, I occasionally blog for ShopPerk, an app created to help people shop smarter and live better. While the app is in development, the food blog is in full swing.

Earlier this week, I wrote an ode to my Dad and “P” foods. In honor of Father’s Day, it’s reposted below.

(And Dad, thank you for being such a good sport about seeing your private email conversation posted on a public blog. I learned my good-sportedness from you).

He’ll Make it if it Starts With “P”

My dad is really good at making pancakes. Pancakes with bananas, pancakes with blueberries, pancakes with chocolate chips—you get the picture.

pancakes

Actual picture from Betty Crocker.

On the occasions when my mom was out of town, he would expand his repertoire and make my sisters and me other foods starting with “P.” We’d have pizza (pepperoni with green peppers for good measure) peas (of the frozen variety), popcorn (unbuttered but lightly salted) and pancakes for dinner instead of breakfast. Apart from the peas, we loved dad’s cooking.

In preparation for this blog, I emailed him and asked him to remind me what other “P” foods he made us.

Here’s how the exchange went:

Me (10:43 a.m.): Hey Dad, I’m writing a blog for ShopPerk about the different “P” foods you’d make for us when we were kids. Pancakes, pizza, popcorn… what am I missing?

Dad (11:09 a.m.): Hi Ash. Pasta – as in macaroni and cheese (made in hot dog water). Later, I added Panera to my list. I will probably think of some others and will let you know. Have a great day!

Dad (11:20 a.m.): Be sure to add peanut butter (and jelly). Occasionally a pop-tart made the menu as well.

Me (12:19 p.m.): Thank you! Keep it coming.

Dad (2:04 p.m.): Pastry.

Dad (2:06 p.m.): Polish sausage.

Me (2:37 p.m.): I don’t recall you ever making a pastry.

Dad (5:27 p.m.): Didn’t I buy you a doughnut?

Me (8:05 p.m.): Good point. Thanks!

And that, my friends, is a good dad.

To all you other dads out there, may you get really good at making foods that all start with the same letter. And may your kids love you even more for it.

Happy nearly Father’s Day!

– Ashleigh

Day 176: When a Mom Gets Sick

When a mom gets sick, it’s a very confusing time. Because moms don’t get sick. They’re basically superhuman. Dads don’t get sick either, for that matter.

My mom is sick. It’s not life-threatening, but it is uncomfortable. She’s in the hospital and having surgery on Tuesday, 2,000 miles away from where I live.

Discombobulated, I’ve now asked three of my relatives whether or not I should fly out there even though she told me not to. I finally stopped asking when my dad admitted that since they just moved in to their new place, I would be more stressful than helpful. (Although I do feel like I’d be an excellent drug runner… in the sense that I’m really good at picking up legal prescriptions from the pharmacy.)

When I had minor surgery a couple of years ago, my mom was my hero. She stayed with me, she propped me up on the couch and brushed my hair, she lined up a slew of trashy TV shows for me to watch (I think that’s when I got hooked on The Millionaire Matchmaker), and she made me delicious and healthy meals. If memory serves me, she also put together a really complicated table from Ikea for me. It was during the height of my drug-induced “look at all the pretty colors” phase, so I’m a little foggy on that part.

I’d like to assure my mom that her codeine hallucinations aren’t real while I put together her furniture, but instead I’m stuck here. Blogging. And it’s not that I don’t trust my family—I know my dad, grandparents, and aunts and uncles are all excellent TV show-pickers—but I’m finally old enough to recognize all the amazing care-taking my mom has done for me, and I want to pay her back.

So, mom, I’m sorry I’m not there. Don’t worry about putting anyone out or asking for too much. Tell our family what you need and they’ll get it for you. Call me when you’re bored in the hospital and I’ll tell you all about my latest OkCupid date. And Taylor and Paige and I will make you a list of good Netflix movies that don’t require constant concentration.

Also, don’t worry about all the unpacked boxes in your new home. Dad will put everything away in mysterious places and you’ll spend the next five years trying to decipher his unpacking logic. It’ll be fun.

Day 164: Stuff and Things and Letting Go

Things strangely collect our emotions.

I posted a couple weeks ago about how giving away my loveseat on Craigslist was a tearful disaster (more because of the recipients than the item—but still). And today, my parents are moving. They packed up their Chicago house and are headed to the northwest.

We’ve never been a terribly nostalgic family when it comes to structures and stuff. Growing up, we moved more often than most of our friends, and settled ourselves in different parts of the country for the sake of adventure. We collected people and shed things every time we left a house, and always (almost) enjoyed the newness and excitement of reorganizing somewhere new.

But this move feels a little different. My parents are doing it without my sisters and me. We don’t have our own bedrooms in the new place (much to my mom’s chagrin), and there will be no school orientations, no track meets and no yearbook functions. It’s an adult move and they’re paring down.

Even our old art projects, skating ribbons and American Girl dolls aren’t going along for the ride. The remaining evidence of my sisters’ and my youth is heading into a storage unit outside of Chicago, where we can come and pilfer as we have time and space.

So for the last couple of months, my parents have been selling, donating and free-Craigslisting (sans tears) many of their belongings. I’ve seen the “come and get it” Facebook posts and waited on the phone as a 9-1-1 fallback while strangers picked up their couches and end tables. I was well aware that their things were going to new homes.

And I was fine with it until my mom posted a picture of my dad’s charcoal Weber grill (the one he received for college graduation and has been using ever since), and called it up for grabs.

Instinctually, I grabbed. Out of sheer terror. I mean, what would my parents be without the Weber? I grew up understanding its timelessness, its durability and its knack for producing the perfect, patiently grilled steak. I knew I had to hang on to it for them, lest their personalities disappear completely with this move.

The Weber

There she is.

Two text messages with my mom proved logically otherwise. They don’t need it anymore. And I’m a vegetarian living in a one-bedroom apartment with no outdoor space. Though I remember the grill being a fine roommate when it had a deck to itself, in my current arrangement it would coat my wispy curtains with soot and be the centerpiece of my living room. And it doesn’t do so well with veggies. She gave it to a grateful neighbor instead.

The bottom line is that stuff gets you sometimes. And then you have to let it go.

Because really, stuff is nothing without people.