Category Archives: Adjusting

When it Rains, it Pours

Unfortunately, this week, when it rains it pours meant that death and devastation ruled the headlines, followed up by missed opportunities in Congress, and accompanied by historical anniversaries of tragedy at home and abroad.

Here in Italy, they say “Piove sempre sul bagnato” (It always rains on the wet).

But I say the rain is finished for now! Next week will be different! Stories and attitudes already show the resolve and power of responding positively in solidarity with Boston. Runners are a tough crew and I repeatedly read the same thread of steely determination that I feel in my heart in their comments and actions. Find strength within the running community. Get out on the road and run despite the rain. These are things we do while training, and it is part of the allure of training for long-distance runs – there is some urgent, instinctual need to push yourself and discover the hidden capabilities within you, both physical and mental. Push a runner to her edge? That runner will extend and redefine her edge.

“Are we saddened, and am I personally crushed by what happened today? Absolutely,” Havens said. “It would be easy to lose all faith in society and mankind and ask ‘Why did this happen?’ But I’m not going to change who I am, and all these people aren’t going to change who they are. People who do harm, one of the things they want is for people to become low and morose, and if you let them do that, they’ve won. We still have to service the customers, the runners, and we can’t put on a sad face for them.”

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Sigonella Directory

The Cinquecento Project wants to pay it forward to incoming military and civilians to Naval Air Station Sigonella. I started the blog in part because of the dearth of information available as I attempted to plan for my transition to Sicily and the lifestyle of an OCONUS military spouse. Ha! I didn’t even know what OCONUS meant until I was over here for a few months. Check out the acronyms section below if you aren’t in that loop yet.

To help anyone who just wants to get information about Sigonella without wading through my more personalized posts, I culled my posts for the following information. Of course, since there is no typical military spouse, even my Sigonella-specific posts are somewhat personalized. I attempted to organize it into useful categories. If you have a question I haven’t answered, post a question in the comments and I will spend the second half of my time in Sigonella to fill in the gaps, as I can. I always have an eye to OPSEC, so I may not be willing to post all of the information you are seeking.

No matter who you are or where you are coming from, you can find a place for yourself in Sigonella; all it takes is a positive attitude and a willingness to be open to new cultures and experiences. Lean into the discomfort for your first six months and lickety-split, you will be assimilated and loving la vita dolce in Sicily!

Cinquecento Project Posts:

– Basics about living in Sicily
– Basics about NASSIG Amenities
– Getting Around
– What to do/Where to go…
…on Sicily
…in Italy
…in Europe
…in Europe and Asia
…in Asia
– Acronyms
– Italian Words

Sister and Brother Sicily Blogs:

Sicily Ciao

Basics about living in Sicily

– if you are a civilian or military spouse interested in working or furthering your career in Sigonella, check out In Gear Career Sigonella Chapter

– summers are hot, the sun is relentless

the best oranges of your life (unless you are from a citrus hometown)

– be aware of Ferragosto: business grinds to a halt for the month of August; August is the month of vacation for all Italians and many from the north come to Sicily for the beaches

– Sicilians smoke and they don’t hide in corners the way smokers in the U.S. do

horse meat is enjoyed, donkey meat is a delicacy

– Sicilians take International Women’s Day seriously!

avoid McDonald’s

Leroy Merlin

– Trucker’s strikes (“sciopero” is the Italian word for strike) can be empty threats, or they can be very real and cause long lines at gas stations (no truckers to deliver more gas), and traffic jams due to protests at the toll booth, and more consequences: Here are my posts about the most intense strike in order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

gelato; gelato; gelato; granite; gelato

– military spouses do it all with resiliency

eat figs, mmmm

– Poste Italiane, pay your parking tickets here (you can pay for a parking ticket at any post office in Italy, it does not need to be in the same city where you received the ticket)

– you may be in temporary lodging for 56 days

– Eat a granite and brioche for breakfast and feel Sicilian

Military Members and pets

– Fall in love with Mt. Etna, and eruptions, eruptions, more eruptions, Mt. Etna webcam, and another, Mt. Etna smoking, Mt. Etna ash

bonfires and fireworks for festivals and any celebratory occasion

– Permesso di Soggiorno, or Sojourner’s Permit: go to legal, apply for it, then forget it (unless you are taking a trip that requires it)…just don’t stress out about it, if you know you *need* it, call back to the office; if not, just relax and use your no-fee passport and visa and chill out; if you must, carry the letter that you applied for your Sojourner’s permit with you when you travel

shopping, Ikea, more shopping

– history is all around you(!!!): stories from the Odyssey

Geep!

– things burning on the side of the road should not alarm you during dry season

– don’t be surprised if you consider decorating with wine barrels

Basics about NASSIG amenities


Base Living

Yes, we have a Commissary, and a Navy Exchange, as well as Navy Federal Credit Union and a Community Bank (government contracted bank on base, operated by Bank of America, runs on 10-year contracts, renewed recently (~2013)), there is an autoport (although many car-guys trust Mario, who runs a garage across from Marinai), dry-cleaning is available on base, there is a laundromat, barber shop, flower shop, hospital, 2-screen movie theater, bowling alley, skateboard park, and more! Also, remember that Sicily is beautiful and you have to learn to overlook a bit of trash here and there (cuz littering is a thing here).

Tips for Adjusting

Postal System: with a few key tips in mind, you can have a lovely time in Sicily, receiving regular mail. Tips: Tip #1 – inform your creditors of your new address and always have an email back-up; you will NOT receive bills ahead of time, so do not rely on a paper document to remind you to pay your bills, PLAN AHEAD for this…schedule a regular payment, or pre-pay, or mark your calendar and call and ask how much the bill is when you know it has been issued…whatever it is, don’t rely on a paper bill showing up in the mail; Tip #2 – let your friends and family know that (a) a 1st-class stamp is all they need to get an envelope to you (under 1 ounce), (b) use Priority and the package will reach you in about 6-12 days, (c) if they use media rate or standard (fka Parcel Post) the package will take up to 3 months to reach Sigonella; Tip #3 pay attention to the shipping method when you purchase goods online, if the arrival is important to you, ALWAYS, always, always choose Priority! – the vendor cannot provide overnight service due to the distance (so it isn’t worth paying for it), and Priority will almost always get it here in two weeks or less; if the vendor uses FedEx or UPS, I recommend you (a) find an alternate vendor, (b) use a service like APObox, (c) negotiate with the vendor to use USPS for delivery, or (d) ship to a friend/family US address and have them use USPS for delivery. This is important because the companies who have contracts with UPS, DHL, FedEx or any other private carrier will revert to the slowest USPS method if they even offer service to the APO/FPO address, which means up to 3 months delivery time to Sigonella.

Gym: As of this writing, the gym on NAS I is much nicer, although both have their ups and downs. If you prefer the gym on NAS I, put your name immediately on the wait list for a locker, it may take 2-8 months for you to get a locker. The pool is at the NAS I gym, although there is a current project to restore the pool on NAS II. NAS II has sand volleyball courts. Both NAS I and NAS II have fields. NAS I has a track (behind the school). Both gyms have machines for cardio and weights; NAS I has classrooms for group exercises (yoga, pilates, zumba, etc). They also put together the Base 2 Base series, a group of runs that feels very much like home to any runners out there, I started with the POW/MIA run.

Housing:
Inspection
your dryer might be outdoors
you will sign five original leases (wait, which one is the original?)
– your bathtub and shower will be different sizes than you are used to
Base Housing, the majority of base housing is in Marinai (scroll to third photo on link)

Indoc: When you arrive on island, I recommend sitting through the indoctrination class the base provides you. Many of you will opt out, feeling that your time could be better spent exploring on your own; however, I regularly use knowledge I gained in indoc and colleagues and friends often say “How did you know that?” and I answer, “From indoc.” At the very least, I encourage you to participate in the InterCultural Relations (ICR) portion, which provides you survival Italian resources, a chance to step into the community with a guide, and information about ordering food from Italian vendors (e.g. “I want a pound of sliced provolone” does not compute with Sicilian vendors, and believe me, you want to buy their provolone!).

Library: There is a great OCONUS library system, complete with interlibrary loan, an NKO loaning library (your sponsor will have to get you registered unless you have a CAC), a coffee shop, friendly and knowledgable librarians, about 20 desktop computers for community use, study tables and carrels, a decent dvd section, ample travel book and travel dvd collections and strong wi-fi.

Getting Around

Driving

My philosophy on driving in Sicily
Telepass – get it if you live north of the toll line, it’s worth it!!! Traffic jams can be killer…, but just like getting back on a horse you gotta get back on that freeway

Ferries

Flying
The major airport for eastern Sicily is in Catania (CTA) and is named Fontanarossa, which means “red fountain.” Space A from Sigonella can get you to Norfolk, via Rota, Spain. Or, in the other direction, you can get to Souda Bay, which is on Crete (an island of Greece).

There are also some regional routes that offer affordable prices if you fly through the Trapani or Palermo airports.

What to Do/Where to Go…
…on Sicily

Acireale Carnevale

Aeolian Islands: Milazzo to Lipari, Canneto beach (views of Panarea and Stromboli), best cannolo ever, Vulcano,

Agrigento
Valley of the Temples
Turkish Steps
Bagliesi Winery

Caleca Ceramics Factory, Caleca Ceramiche – near Patti, Sicily

Caltagirone

Catania Bellini Opera House

Catania Fish Market

La Caverna in Acireale

Cefalù: home of the annual international gelato festival, I went twice so far.

Gambino Winery – a winery run by a warm Sicilian family, with delicious wines, a great tasting room, and ample hospitality – enjoy!

Locanda COS near Ragusa

Ortigia

Ottobrata in Zafferana – this is a huge Sicilian festival, and it runs strong for each weekend in October, when the mountain town of Zafferana features a different Sicilian specialty each weekend. Go early and make sure you leave before dark to avoid 2-hour long lines leaving Zafferana

Shalai – this spa and fine-dining restaurant in Linguaglossa is amazing!

Siracusa

Snowshoeing on Mt. Etna

…in Italy

Amalfi Coast; we flew in and rented a car in Naples to visit Pompei and the Amalfi Coast, enjoying lovely sunsets, too

Lago di Garda, you don’t have to run the marathon, though

Milan, meandering

Roma – a favorite of mine, enjoyable as a couple, with parents, or even just an overnight on your way someplace else…

Tuscany, we had a great trip there with friends in 2011, good food,

…in Europe

Amsterdam, and eat bandeja paisa

Barcelona, mmmm eat at Escriba

Brugge, Belgium

Estonia, culture abounds, Tartu, scroll to the wall drawing

Geneva, Switzerland, we had a fabulous time in this expensive city; plenty to see and do and eat and shop (if that’s your thing), great opportunities for day trip to the mountains for a hike (though we did not fit that into this trip)

…in Europe and Asia

Istanbul, Turkey
cay, ayran, kunefe, Topkapi, menemen, nar suyu, commentary

…in Asia

Taiwan
Taipei, guava and popcorn, Taiwanese junk food, European style bakeries, Mr. Cheeseburger Face Man, cute kids, Zelda and Taroko Gorge
Lyudao, Lyudao (Green Island), Lyudao II, and more Lyudao

Acronyms

CAC: Computer Access Card
CONUS: Continental United States
NASSIG: Naval Air Station Sigonella
NKO: Navy Knowledge Online
OCONUS: Outside the Continental United States
Space A: Space Available (access to open spaces on military flights)

Italian Words:

antipasto/antipasti: appetizers; traditional Italian antipasto plate usually has cured meats, cheese, olives, and maybe some local specialties such as sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.

AutoGrill: restaurant and bar on the autostrada, always has interesting tchotchkes, free bathrooms, fresh panino, and nutella

bar: a coffee shop; usually you order at the cashier, get a receipt and take the receipt to the coffee bar where the barrista will make your coffee drink

Caprese salad: tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil (for some reason, the majority of places that serve the Caprese around Sigonella do not always include basil)

colazione: breakfast

Family words

Greetings: Buon giorno, salve, ciao, buona sera

mare: sea (signs saying “mare” indicate if you follow them, you will be led to the seaside)

panetteria: bread shop

riposo: rest; this is the Italian version of the Spanish “siesta” period; logistically, this is the time when shops close for the hottest part of the day, and gives Italians time to be with family before returning to work for another 4-5 hours; riposo period is very real in Sicily and you will notice changes in traffic and many shops will be closed; there are more malls and large stores that are staying open straight through riposo; just check the schedule of a store to avoid any frustration

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Debt or debtless?

Daily Worth provides an email service that brings financial discussion points and information to my attention. I consider myself financially naive; I have some basic tools, but I really do not know what I am doing. Daily Worth helps me slowly gain vernacular, awareness, and insight to how to craft a financial plan that will help me reach the future I see for myself. You can sign up for the email here*.

Recently, they sent me a link to this infographic:
(Click on the image to see the whole slide)

In keeping with the Cinquecento Project theme of focusing on the positive, here are my five most positive thoughts on my current state of debt:

1. Lessons learned. Life is a game of making choices about how to collect, use and preserve resources. Money is one resource. Time is another. I traded my time in law school for money and now I am trading time at work for the money to repay my loans. It is that simple. All of the side effects of this exchange are points of education for how I make future exchanges. (Side effects include: wobbly career arc, resentment of law school/policy makers, jealousy of those who have repaid their debt, self-hatred and self-doubt for arriving here, etc.) Another example: the 7.5% interest rate on my student loans compared to the low housing and car loan rates (3-5%) seems to tell me that society values consumerism over education. It also tells me that I was an ostrich with my head in the sand when I took on those loans. Lessons learned that will help me moving forward.

2. No credit card debt makes me feel free. Like nearly half of the respondents to the Mint.com poll above, I abhor credit card debt. Perhaps it is because I have been paying back a car loan, a student loan, or both for nearly a decade. I incorporated the interest portion of these payments into my life philosophy as as a fee for the ability to act (car to get to work/travel/family; attend classes at school); to pay a credit card company extra money is more like paying an extra fee for owning something (no action required). The actions are ones which I could take without the tools (car, professors), but that would be much more difficult (walking/biking/bussing; self-teaching with library books). To me, it is the opposite of shopping for discounted or sale items, it is paying an unnecessary premium on clothes, gas, travel, whatever is on the credit card. As a thrifty shopper, paying credit card interest undoes all the work I put into finding deals and using products thoroughly before discarding them. I paid interest one time to a credit card company while I was still an undergrad and since then I have been skilled and stubborn enough (it takes both, I think) to have avoided interest fees on my credit card.

3. Getting over my fear of debt. The echoes of the Great Depression instilled a fear of debt in my psyche; Aunt Fern’s stories of never buying anything unless you had the money in hand helped my fear take root, too. Now that I have significant student loan debt, I find that I actually live life a little more fully. This reflection echoes the life choices piece (#1), with a bent toward risk-taking and engaging in the moment. When I was living with well relatively low debt in my early-mid 20s (around $5,000, none of it credit card), I could theorize on numerous paths my life might take. Over my gap years (between undergrad and law school) I managed to tiptoe down several of these paths. As soon as the time came to commit to a certain path, I would leap back, scared of the financial (and other) consequences of committing. Now that I am bound to my debt for the next 12-23 years, I have had to make friends with it. The result is that I am more open to taking risks. After all, what have I to lose? I’m already in debt up to my ears and my world hasn’t fallen apart! Who knows what other fears have been holding me back?

4. I’m the lucky one. No matter the amount of debt, I am still among the small percentage of people worldwide who are fortunate enough to devote myself to study. I am not toiling in a factory, my body is not subjected to violence, and I have always had shelter, food, clothing and love. I am lucky to have this particular challenge to struggle against.

5. Realizing I believe in myself. This debt was and is an investment in myself. It was risky and though I was a bit of an ostrich when it came to sourcing the debt (seriously – 7.5% interest rate – ugh!), I knowingly took the risk because I believed enough in myself. I still believe in myself and know that I will eventually get to a place where I am not so scared and frustrated by the numbers.

What about you?
What do you think about Debt? Credit card or otherwise? Have you had positive experience where taking on debt helped you achieve another life goal? Is there something I am missing?

*Note: While useful to me, I tend to find that Daily Worth is geared toward a person who is more consumerist that I am. Still, the information is most often thought provoking at the very least and reminds me how much power I have over what my financial future looks like at the most.

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No Doubt, We’re Out and About

If you are interested in language, dialects, accents and such, you MUST read this article.

The journalist cleverly describes a linguistic vowel shift occurring in the U.S. cities ringing the Great Lakes (Canadians will keep their accent, thank you very much, eh). Wit and puns abound, and the true delights of using and appreciating written and spoken word are celebrated in this article.

Plus, it points out something I have been aware of since I was a wee 18-years old: Great Lakes speakers are completely unaware of how fucking drastic their accents are.

As a bright-eyed college freshman, venturing forth from Wisconsin to the oh-so-far-away Missouri, you can imagine my utter shock when every single person I met commented on my accent. “I sound just like people on TV.” I retorted haughtily. For months I held my ground without giving an inch, and with a growing chip on my shoulder.

The chip got heavier when we watched the acclaimed Coen Brothers movie, Fargo. “WE DON’T SOUND LIKE THAT!” I remember protesting. I refused to laugh at the entire movie, certain that my accent was nothing like that portrayed on film, and absolutely nothing to be the source of amusement among my new peer group.

With this evidence of my complete deafness to my own accent in Missouri, you can imagine my surprise when I returned home in November to find that my entire family sounded just like Fargo. I was shocked and dismayed (not like shock and awe at all). The shock wore off quickly, but the dismay lingered for a while.

Being the good-natured sort that I often am, I started poking fun at myself and soon even left the message for our dorm room, “No doubt, we’re out and about” (if you don’t understand why this phrase would display my strong accent, talk to somebody from Wisconsin or Minnesota…or watch Fargo, or Drop Dead Gorgeous). I even re-watched Fargo and finally saw the brilliance and hilarity the movie offers.

Yet, with my newfound self-awareness, I was adrift on an iceberg in the cold Arctic Sea of my Wisconsin friend and family accent denial. As the studies in the article show, faced with recordings of their own accent, this group of speakers will fail to understand the speech and also utterly deny that they themselves have the same accent. After a few attempts at sharing my renaissance with my family, and their sharp barbs back at me, I quickly relented. My own dramatic self-discovery was still tender.

To all of the lovely Northern Cities Speakers reading this, thank you for keeping our accent, for contributing to diversity in our region, and to making linguistic history!

And to any folks traveling from Milwaukee, if you could just go ahead and check your roller bags at that gate, that’d be great…

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Cheerful Cherries, Green Beans and Quinoa

After a lovely Sicilian day of a hot morning run, a long day’s work, and a pleasant commute home with my hilarious husband, I turned to the refrigerator and said,

“MAKE ME DINNER!”

The fridge just sat there humming.

I assumed the Charlie Brown defeat pose and pulled open the refrigerator door.  

I reached in and withdrew a bag of fresh green beans and ripe cherries. Dave had purchased them on Friday for a new salad recipe I had planned to try out over the weekend.  It was now time to use the fresh ingredients before they started to turn bad.

When the produce deterioration has progressed to the point where I cannot eat the product fresh, I will brainstorm how to salvage the edible parts and cook them into a casserole, soup, or a fruity dessert. Thanks, Mom!

Inevitably, there are times when I have miscalculated or failed to keep track of certain fruits and veggies.  At that point, I usually feel deep shame and regret when I eventually toss out the fruits and veggies. No thanks, universe!

Since I am a person who is strongly shame-and-regret averse, I work hard to use the fresh fruits and veggies we have before they become inedible. Thanks, me!

These rituals and procedures are at the forefront of my mind lately, because my friend Millie has adopted a whole foods approach to her eating lifestyle. She eats quite healthy most of the time, but has been talking about cutting out processed foods and food products in an aim to eat even healthier. This immediately got me thinking of my blogger friend Sara, who recalls her disgust at eating steaks with fake grill marks as impetus for her eating lifestyle change. Sara’s change led, in part, to her delightful blog, Real Fun Food.

Sara posted her recipe for Cherry Balsamic Bean Salad, which inspired my dinner tonight. However, I failed to read the entire recipe, failed to buy all the ingredients, and failed to prep beans for the salad. I succeeded in following Sara’s inspiration, I succeeded in salvaging my beans and cherries, and I succeeded in making a delicious dinner from whole foods (mostly), with enough left for lunch tomorrow. WINNING!

I followed Sara’s ratio, substituted quinoa for mixed beans, green beans for snap peas, and the pièce de résistance…I added some V8 Berry Splash for the cherry jelly! That was my inner Lucy guiding my Charlie-Brown-defeated self to dinner victory.

Buona cena!

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Garlic: Aglio

Ciao tutti,

It’s time for your hump-day Italian food and language lesson.

Today’s topic is garlic!

First we’ll cover the language and then focus on the food. In Italian, garlic is called “aglio.” This is one of those tricky Italian pronunciations. Say “awl” “lee” “oh” – (not ah-glee-o). The “gli” sound is always the same, so if you see this combo in other words, just remember the shove the back of your tongue toward the back of your mouth, then semi-swallow as you say “lllleeeee” as best you can. Try it now.

Seriously, did you try it?

Did anybody HEAR you?!! Ha ha. Hope you had a little fun with that one.

Now, onto the food stuff.

In addition to being a key ingredient to many of my favorite meals, garlic is also an ancient plant known for its healing powers. Raw, roasted, sauteed or baked, garlic brings the flavor and the favor (of health, wasn’t that obvious?).

Stocking up this week, I was pleased to find local garlic at our neighborhood Standa (grocery store). Here in Sicily, the Standa still observes riposo (starting roughly at 1pm/2pm and ending around 4/5pm), it is closed on Sundays, it has a regular full-time staff in the deli, and the produce attendant fetches, weighs and prices all of the produce for you.

When I indicated I want a bunch of garlic, the produce attendant pointed back and forth between the meshed-wrapped, mega-white, factory-farmed, every-bulb-the-same-size-and-shape garlic and the knobby, tinged with dirt, dried-stems-tied-together garlic. I immediately chose the latter.

As an aside, while I use as much Italian as I can, we both tend to fall back on pointing at critical junctures in the selection process. It is what it is; the simplest forms of communication are usually the most effective.

The produce attendant hesitated after I had selected the earthy garlic; he first pointed out the higher price to me. The mega-white garlic was about 1.90 Euro/kg and the earthy garlic was 4.35 Euro/kg. I nodded my understanding and emphatically pointed at the earthy garlic. Even with my assent he went on to tell me about the superior flavor of the earthy garlic, I nodded enthusiastically through his explanation. I knew I was getting my Euro’s worth by buying the more authentic stuff.

At home this week, we have been rewarded with a rich pungent garlic aroma and flavor when we’ve used the new garlic. Living in Sicily, I could also stop at a roadside stand and be similarly rewarded. This bunch should last us a few months.

If you are garlic-hesitant or have never dabbled in garlic, I highly recommend you start in small doses and work your way up. Not only will your tolerance raise to enjoy garlic more and more this way, it will also give your digestive system appropriate time to adjust to the way garlic interacts with your body.

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My melancholy has a name.

Cinquecento

(Uno) 1. Mixing up the holiday potluck with solstice cookies.

(Due) 2. Prepping our bedroom for delivery of our bedroom set! Whoo-hoo, I will have a dresser again after two months of piles in suitcases and bags. I like roughing it, but drawers will be a nice change.

(Tre) 3. The slow tempo and big smiles at work. We take a collective sigh and appreciate more moments at this time of year. While not all in our office celebrate the Christian holiday, we all celebrate the cultural Christmas spirit of the Western world.

(Quattro) 4. Still thinking about making choices that bring me deeper into the reality of my life. So much to think about!

(Cinque) 5. A gorgeous sunset on the longest night of the year. Dave and I had just started leaving work and off to the west the sun was fighting for its last glorious display. It had been playing games with rain clouds all day long, and let me tell you, rain clouds were predominant. At the final moment though, with thick gray clouds covering all of Mt. Etna and about 95% of the sky, the sun burst through the horizon and cast deep purples, brilliant pinks and oranges, and burned a fiery yellow as it promised its longevity and prominence over the rain clouds.

Cento

My melancholy has a first name, W.I.S.C.O.N.S.I.N. – white elephant game on Mom’s side, dinner politics on Dad’s side, feeling like the nooks and crannies of our personalities come together like a jigsaw puzzle when we snuggle in to open presents Christmas morning. My melancholy has a second name, M.A.D.I.S.O.N. Slushing through the snow for a beer at Blue Moon, running into friends, and toasting dreams. Walking home as snow falls from a midnight blue sky, my cheeks burning brightly against the cold. Knowing I safely completed another day as I lock the door behind me and snuggle into bed.

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