Entertaining Dad

When my father visits any of my four siblings, there is always something for him to do. Usually some project around the house for which his help or advice is needed. Or a grandchild that wants to play. Or a magazine he can read. Or a television that he can watch.

But when he visits me? First of all, up until three months ago, I was his only non-home-owning child. So I didn’t have a running list of projects that Dad could help with. I don’t have grandchildren for Dad to play with. That was never part of my plan. And the only two magazines I subscribe to are Mindful and Cooking Light — neither of which appeal to my father, a man whose typical breakfast is donuts and whose typical lunch is hot dogs. And yes, we have a television, but I don’t think Dad can operate it without assistance.

So I feel like I must keep Dad entertained when he comes to visit. I need to find a scenic drive to some adorable small town. And we have to go out to eat. Because most things I cook would not qualify as meals by my father’s definition: my home-cooked meals rarely include meat and usually include some vegetable that he’s suspicious of. Or worse — one he’s never seen before. Which reminds me of the time Mom and I cooked parsnips and when Dad eyed them with a sneer and asked, “What the hell are these?” we told him, “Oh — they’re just white carrots.” He ate them. The next night, we had dinner at a friend’s house and he questioned a vegetable in one of their soups. “Those are parsnips, Lou. Haven’t you ever had them?” they asked. “Nope,” he said. Mom and I couldn’t hold in our laughter. “Actually, Dad, you had them last night.”

So parental visits to my adopted hometown of Asheville, NC have caused me some stress. Weeks before my parents’ arrival I would start polling co-workers for ideas of what to do with them. On my whiteboard, below the lists of clients and projects, I had a list titled “Parents.” In more recent years I’ve moved that list to my phone.

But three months ago, I did something that will make parental visits much less stressful. Or, now that I think about it, maybe just stressful in a different way: Michael and I bought a house. Not a new house–that wouldn’t solve my problem at all as there’d be no projects for Dad. Ours was built in 1986. As was evidenced by the popcorn ceilings and the bar sink on one living room wall. Above which are three shelves tucked into an alcove lined with mirrors. Yeah. I know. You’re jealous.

Purchasing a new home was not part of my 2017 plan. Neither was getting engaged. But Michael decided to propose on August 6. And within four days our wedding venue was booked and he was on the phone with a realtor. “So what made you decide to start looking at houses?” she asked Michael. “We just got engaged four days ago and I read in the manual that buying a house is the next thing we’re supposed to do.” Thank God for Michael’s sense of humor. Because mine was dwindling as we drove from one outdated home to the next.

But six weeks after we started our search, we closed on our first home. My parents had a previously planned trip to visit us the last weekend in October, which had now become the weekend we were going to move. But Michael told me to postpone their visit. “I want the house to be ready when they get here,” he explained. In the month between our closing date and Mom and Dad’s proposed visit, we were scheduled to:

  1. Put hardwood floors in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.
  2. Put new carpeting in all the bedrooms.
  3. Get the crawl space lined, a dehumidifier put in, and some floor joists bolstered.
  4. Paint most of the house.
  5. Move in.

“I don’t think you understand,” I told him. “My parents want to help. They love this stuff.” I paused. “Well, I’m not sure they love it. But they do it a lot.” I called Mom to confirm. She laughed. “Yes, I like helping my kids nest.” And Dad? He loves projects.

I know relationships require compromise. So despite my strong desire for my parents’ help, I told them we’d need to reschedule their visit. “We’ll keep it in the calendar in case Michael changes his mind,” my dad said. Thankfully, Michael did.

I didn’t see much of my dad on that visit. He and Michael were always off working on or getting supplies for some project. I can’t even list them as I don’t recall a single one. All I know is that Mom and I got plenty of bonding time while packing and cooking. Dad still wanted to go out to eat, but Mom and I knew we’d be exhausted at the end of the day, so we took breaks from packing to cook together.

Cooking is relaxing to me. For many years I was the only child who lived away from home, so when I returned for holidays I had plenty of time to help Mom cook for our holiday gatherings. Now I only go home for Christmas. “I SO miss you helping me,” my mother tells me. I try to hold back my tears. I miss it, too.

Mom and I were right. After the first day, Dad still wanted to go out to eat. We were exhausted. In their impatience, the men ordered pizza, which arrived just about the time the chicken and potatoes finished cooking. We let it cool and packed it away for lunch the next day.

Mom and Dad helped us pack, move, and then unpack. “I don’t know how you would have done this without us,” my mother said. I had no plans to do it without them. I did as Michael had asked and attempted to postpone their visit, but deep down I knew they were coming.

We didn’t go out to eat the entire time they were here. Unless you count Michael taking Dad to Chipotle for lunch every day. Mom made roast beef. Then stew. Our new neighbors brought over lasagna. “We can go out to eat next time we visit,” Dad said. Yep. And to my list of things to do when my parents visit, I will now be able to add a whole bunch of projects for Dad. Because I hear there are always a few on any homeowners to-do list.



Best Moments of 2017

It’s that time of year again. Here goes, off the top of my head, and therefore in no particular order.

  1. The moment Michael proposed. Of course.  
  2. The moment I tried on my first wedding dress. I detest shopping. So my mother came down and we booked an appointment. In an hour I had tried on thirty dresses. The women at Candler Budget Bridal made it not painful at all! And, in fact, I got teary when I saw myself in the first one. Mom and I narrowed it to three. Two weeks later, I bought one — from the same place, but not one of those three!
  3. The moment I decided to end my fourth Camino. I didn’t know it was a good moment at the time. But aren’t some of your best moments only deemed such in hindsight? I had planned on walking another week. But 90 degree temps are not my ideal walking conditions. 
  4. The moment I saw San Antón in the distance. I had seen it twice before, but I don’t think it’ll ever get old. 
  5. The moment I saw my co-hospitalero (volunteer) at San Antón sitting at the picnic table writing in his journal. I’d met Stefano just two hours earlier, and we were to work together over the next eighteen days. I had never imagined I would be paired with someone with whom I wouldn’t get along. But I never imagined I’d be paired with someone who complemented me so well.
  6. Speaking of compliments, every moment Stefano paid me one. On my cooking. On my teaching. On my patience with pilgrims. And a million other things. Living without water and electricity is a hell of a lot easier when you have someone flooding you with compliments multiple times each day!
  7. The moment my school year was over. Not because it was over, but because it was my first year teaching full-time, and darn it, I did a pretty damn good job. Allow me to drop all modesty for a moment. The summer before I’d walked into a classroom stuffed to the gills with twenty years worth of stuff teachers thought worthwhile to save, yet no one deemed worth throwing out. That was the first of many challenges to overcome. I called in help when I needed it (in the form of other teachers, administrators, and my mother), cried plenty, watched a great many things go better than I thought they would, and long before the year was over, I was thinking, “Wow. I really like this.” (For those of you keeping track, when I finish my second year in May, this will become the longest full-time job I’ve ever held!)
  8. The moment I was in France and a paycheck got deposited in my account. This was the first summer  1) I didn’t have to quit a job in order to travel 2) I got paid while I was traveling and 3) I didn’t have to look for a job when I got back.
  9. The moment I realized Angela Watson’s calendar program and productivity course were answer to my prayers. Thanks to her, four months after I began my first year teaching, I was leaving my job every day on time, and didn’t have to show up early to get things done. Which, if you talk to most teachers, is unheard of in one’s first year. (And sadly, for some teachers, in their second, third, and tenth years as well!)
  10. The moment I walked into our house after the closing. I had only seen it twice before then, and both times it had someone else’s “stuff” in it. Now I walked into a empty canvas and thought, “Wow. This is a pretty darn good place to start!”
  11. The moment we booked our wedding venue. Five days after we got engaged, no less. I don’t much care for all this hullabaloo around weddings and wanted the stress of booking a place off my plate. Thankfully, the second place we saw was the one for us. 
  12. The moment I told Mom and Dad Michael proposed. They were as shocked as I was — because Michael did not ask my father first. Which reminds me of a Scandinavian woman I walked with on my first Camino who, when I mentioned this custom, said, “Wait. You really do that? I thought that was only in American movies.”
  13. In my classroom, the moment I re-used something I’d laminated last year. I thought, “Last year, I had to find this activity, print it, laminate it, cut it, code it, and figure out where to store it. This year, I just get to pull it out and use it!”
  14. The moment I told my students I was engaged. I give my students a quiz the first day of school. I love seeing their faces fall when I announce it. I wait a moment, then tell them it’s a quiz about me. One of this year’s questions was, “Why is the date June 16, 2018 important to Miss Gallo?” (Answer: c) It’s the day she’s getting married.)
  15. The moments spent meeting Michael’s cousins for the first time. What delightful people! And I get to see them all again in June:) (For the record, Michael’s immediate family are wonderful as well, but this wasn’t my first time meeting them, so I knew that already!)
  16. The moments spent laughing with Michael. 
  17. The moments spend laughing with friends. Especially at knitting nights. Which are really just an excuse for women to get together and talk (ideally with some snacks and wine in hand).
  18. The moments spent laughing with my students. One that stands out: Student says, “Can I ask a question? Two questions, actually.” Me: “Nope. Not two. You only get to ask one today.” Silence descends. Students stare at me, mouths agape, not knowing what to make of this. I wait a few more seconds, then I laugh. The tension is lifted and they all join in.
  19. The moments spent listening to Michael tell me of his ring-buying process. It was so funny to me, I wrote an entire blog post about it. Click here:)
  20. The Monday I came home to work to see all the furniture set up in my new house, all our dishes put away in the kitchen, and neighbors there to welcome us with dinner. And not just dinner, but plates, napkins, utensils, drinks, and dessert! All I can say is: I’m one lucky girl. How many other people have parents who WANT to come help you move? And a fiancé who coordinates it all while you’re at work?
  21. The moment Michael and I walked into our new home after being away for Christmas. “It’s great to be home,” has taken on a whole new meaning.
  22. Every moment, when I was in Europe, that someone commented on a blog post or picture. Yes, I love traveling. But on your own, away from anyone you know, it can certainly get lonely. And my spirits perked right up every time I read words from people I’d known for years, or just days. 

As is the case every year when I write this post, I could go on and on and on. And on. But I’ve got students to teach tomorrow. And you’ve already read 1000 words of mine. So I’ll stop there.

Here’s to hoping all of you have many moments in 2018. Moments of joy, moments of surprise, moments of hope, moments of peace. Thank you for taking time from your days to read about mine.