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Here’s what you (the reader) and me (the author) know about me (the narcissist) after 4+ years of ingesting eatingatme content:

  1. I’m consistently inconsistent.
  2. I’m often unsettled but work diligently to live a positive life.
  3. I over think. Some may say I over share. (Fuck you, haters.)
  4. My potty mouth’s a passion. So’s my sarcasm.
  5. I’m originally from Buffalo, New York.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 5, at least in my case. I confirmed this last weekend.

I flew to Buffalo to surprise my sister, Kristen, for her 40th birthday finale (she, her hubby, and their two kids live in Las Vegas but were back home for a visit). I was raised in Buffalo alongside Kris and her brother, Robbie, who, 36 years later, I still refer to proudly as my siblings. Kris’ loved ones orchestrated a celebratory week that culminated in a Sunday Funday around the city on a party bus. I popped out behind balloons; there were laughs; some tears of joy sprung (mostly from me). There were renditions of Alanis Morrisette’s “Uninvited” and some Barbra Streisand song. There were many drinks.

This – plus copious amounts of hang time with my elementary school bestie, Kate; my extended family; and other longtime friends – occasionally evoked feelings of hiraeth, or a homesickness for that which is no longer (see Regina O’Callaghan’s post on this very topic, executed beautifully). I left Buffalo for college at age 18 and only returned for visits that were very much dictated by my mother’s scheduling. I rarely had an opportunity to enjoy the geography I knew as my birthplace and cradle. I always felt like an outsider and never thought it possible to reclaim my identity as a kid from the Nickel City.

Half way through the visit I decided that drudgery – a behavior that is VERY Buffalo – was no longer acceptable. Buffalo is my home and I want connection, dammit. I experienced love in that city. I danced professionally there. Hell, I learned to read and write in Buffalo. Now, my mother and grandparents are laid to rest there. This all means something very deep to me.

There’s a renaissance occurring in Buffalo; the excitement is palpable. Driving through Canalside and the Elmwood Village with Kris, Rob, our friends and family, and witnessing happiness and a love for life was electric. Eating fucking fantastic Cajun food at Toutant and revisiting my favorite hot dog joint, Ted’s, collided the new and eerily familiar brilliantly. Hanging with Kate and her husband, Jack (my Grade 5 crush), while their daughter, Emma, sang for us…this built a new structure for my hometown around my heart and headspace. I left feeling slightly more settled and invigorated. I also exercised my sarcasm muscle adequately and learned a few new profanities to share with you in later posts.

Hey. It’s Buffalo. It’s what we do.

Passion Play

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I consider myself lucky.

I’ve been in love five times in my life. Punched in the gut, sweet Jesus is-this-for-real, gasping for air agape-eros-philia heaven. Vastly different journeys. Thankful for each.

I’ve experienced intense professional satisfaction. Goals achieved that prompted my inner outside voice to yell “I DID THIS!” Work that served others while filling me up. Bold action that made me proud and changed me for the better.

And then there have been the moments that rendered me standing still at attention. The drill sergeant of opportunity screaming “TAKE THIS IN! Not everyone gets this chance, you hear me?” My favorite in recent history is from this past Christmas Eve eve. I floated on ancient hallowed snowy ground in Fengersfors, Sweden, observing the silent flicker of lantern light among the gravestones of the church’s adjoining cemetery. While tears rolled down my cheeks, I praised God, my mother, and each person who made it possible for me to be in that hour.

It’s now the eve of my 41st birthday, and I’m sitting exactly opposite of where I was precisely six months ago. Sweating in hot urban Vista, California, drinking bourbon, and crying hallelujah that my MacBook’s made it another day. Lots of uncertainty rubbing my shoulders but I still feel exaltation akin to what bubbled up in all the aforementioned scenarios.

This is what unconventional reinvention yields. Common vernacular might define this as “adulting” but I find that term ridiculous. It discredits the thought and labor behind getting it done; everyone inevitably becomes an adult with the passing of time. Reinvention – responsibility – takes dedication and sweat.

Tonight I’m present to what it means to walk, run, twerk in my shoes. I get the value of the almighty dollar and the freedom it provides; I’m also clear that it’s the last thing that should define you. I give a one-finger salute to the common, safe, and mundane; I’m striking balance between that which I love and what brings home the pasture raised organic pork. I’m in love with my life; find whatever work I do fulfilling; bloom from amazing opportunities.

As a result, eatingatme has also matured, and in the coming months I look forward to sharing my passion play with you. Collaborations with writers that inspire. Conversations with intriguing individuals who’ve run wild with renaissance and created magic. The launch of a legacy project that’s been 12+ years in the making.

THIS is the eatingatme 2.0 that’s providing satiation. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Regina O’Callaghan, Kimberly Jones, and Lori Krause for the partnership, vision, and fearlessness it’ll take to make our projects happen.

THIS is the outcome of declaring better for myself one year ago. This is what it means to learn from your history in order to live, not just exist.

Sisters From Other Misters, Brothers From Other Mothers

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I’m an only child by birth but that’s where my oneness ends.

For over 40 years, I’ve adopted siblings – some my blood relatives, most not – and created a family that is heart-focused, smart, formidable, diverse, and stunning. This tribe, consisting of approximately 60 people, has saved my life, taught me about commitment, proven that love is above all else, and gifted me the opportunity to share in their miracles and challenges.

The whole is the sum of its parts; my world is rich because each of these individuals is gold to me. I burst with pride daily because of their accomplishments. I thank God for them before I sleep and when I wake.

Happy Siblings Day to my sisters from other misters and brothers from other mothers. I love you with every molecule that makes up my bag ‘o bones. Please know that you make a difference, always.

March 10

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“But nobody wants to hear this tale

The plot is clichéd, the jokes are stale

And baby we’ve all heard it all before

Oh, I could get specific but

Nobody needs a catalog

With details of love I can’t sell anymore”

~Aimee Mann, “Invisible Ink”

My mother knew when I was bullshitting; her intensity kept me honest, at least with her. Today’s her birthday. She would’ve turned 66.

Since her passing, I take time on March 10 to run an authenticity evaluation in her honor and for my sanity. It ain’t fancy; it’s an opportunity to check in with brutal honesty. I moved to Sweden as a result of last year’s findings.

This year, I’m in the midst of my unconventional reinvention. I’ve decluttered, unplugged, and let go to a staggering degree. This really ain’t fancy, but starting from scratch never is. However, I’ve never felt more authentic, less mucked down with bullshit. And as I look in the mirror today, I see the resolve that was missing from my eyes; I’m confident my mother’s struggle to raise me right hasn’t been wasted.

I’m creating a new book, not just a new chapter. Pattie would be proud.

Skål!

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February marks four years of play on eatingatme. This fact didn’t register until generic congratulatory messages via LinkedIn forced my hand to pay it some mind.

“Happy anniversary, you hot mess.” This is what I read every time I received a new ping.

Prior to my stint in Sweden, I viewed eatingatme as yet another ill-defined project I created or participated in as an attempt to establish identity and foster self-worth. Translation: it gave me something to say I was up to because I must always be big and impressive and on par with all of the fancy people.

Truthfully, since the heyday of Red Letter Days Events, I’d been anything but big and impressive. eatingatme reflected that; it didn’t take a rocket tinkerer to recognize that the thread of this blog had often been challenging to follow. It’s served primarily as a mirror for my life’s consistent inconsistency and a mixing board for sounding off. eatingatme’s been valuable to me, and the handful of loving readers who’ve stuck with me, but it hasn’t attracted a large attentive audience. Why would it?

I was about to call curtain on the whole thing, but then Åstorp happened. In the cold calm, this hot mess found her identity, renewed strength, and a bit of lagom (Swedes don’t really have groove, unless they’re AnnaKarin). I had something engaging to express.

And now, this, partly unnerving, all exciting: I’m temporarily in San Diego, the place where I slowly lost my game, but this time the player’s a pro. I’m in the midst of an unconventional reinvention and I’m using every ounce of my energy to stay focused on my priorities determined in Sverige. The luxury of quasi anonymity and partial solitude solidified a new perspective on life by making critical distinctions apparent.

  • I’m a writer, regardless of what I do to earn an income, where I live, or how this rates among the cool kids. It’s my most authentic craft. It’s how I breathe.
  • eatingatme is all good, whether plain and simple or big and impressive. It’s where I share my curiosities and escapades. It’s where I wander and wonder. It’s where I’m me.
  • eatingatme is also a place to engage in generous conversation that provides positive impact for others. It’s a place to satiate the soul through communication on whatever is eating at all of us. The ways this can play out are infinite, just like life. The way it can grow in reach is limitless and I’m jazzed about this process.

Today, eatingatme is something I choose to celebrate. For better or worse, richer or poorer, clearly defined or abstractly chaotic, it’s been my online home for four years.

That’s pretty fucking fancy to me.

I Love Sverige (Upon Leaving)

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I’m just about to head to Helsingborg to take a train to Copenhagen. I leave for the U.S. today.

My thoughts and emotions are flying chaotically but now isn’t the time to craft a lengthy post about that. However, I don’t want to leave Sweden without saying the following:

Thank you for saving me. I’m obsessively grateful.

#swedensavesmysoul #apapeerosphilia #eatingatme

 

I Love Sverige (Part Two of Many)

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Winter is alive and well in Åstorp. The neighborhood looks like a scene from a children’s mythology book, driving the point home: THIS – Sweden – is the real deal. Nothing fabricated, duplicated, or imitated.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the history of the country. Helsingborg is, and likely will be, the largest city in Sweden that I visit during this stay (I’ll devour Stockholm in August or September when I return). My experience has been in small coastal towns and on vast acres that aren’t overly developed or internationally homogeneous in appearance. I’ve rarely witnessed anything that’s conjured a feeling of familiarity or made a remark about how I’m reminded of x or y in the United States. I feel American in Sweden; it’s a sensation of being a naïve teenager.

Because me, with my flashy 1776 wearin’ history, is just so funny compared to Sweden’s 1397 swagger. That swagger has a poise and calm that I simply don’t possess.

I learned to identify this difference as lagom. (If there’s any word in Swedish you should know in addition to fika, it’s lagom.) Like much of the language, lagom has several definitions but the best sense of the word in English is “balance.” It’s with everything even that Sweden has maintained its internationally recognized culture of gender equality, the truth of which I can vouch on a day-to-day basis. There’s a way of being and communicating among women and men that’s level; it doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman performing a job or raising a child. Is the task accomplished or the child well cared for? That’s what matters. Just right. Lagom.

As I’ve previously mentioned, some Swedes with whom I’ve broken down this concept have rolled their eyes in annoyance over its existence. There’s irritation that what it’s created is apathy. (The country’s neutrality on the world’s political stage seems to run through the blood of its people too thickly, they say.) Although I get the concern, and appreciate a little Viking fire rearing its head in debate, I admit without apology that it’s been a welcome break to live in a society that avoids drama whenever possible. (Nobel Peace Prize for the win.)

And it’s to this that I attribute my bold declaration from my previous post about Swedish children being better behaved than those in the United States. I’ll modify that statement slightly because since making it, I’ve in fact seen a few kiddo meltdowns while out and about (hey, kids are kids in any country) but seriously…let me give you an example.

The first weekend I was here, AnnaKarin and I were at IKEA, feasting on meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberries in the store’s cafeteria. IKEA: the place that evokes an anxiety attack from just the thought of it.

Not in Sweden.

I sat for an hour among at least a couple hundred kids who were eating lunch with their parents. NO ONE screamed or cried. NO ONE. Children conversed with their parents, parents laughed with their children. I honestly wondered what planet I moved to. And I’ve seen this time and again over my two plus months here.

Children play an equal role to adults in the Swedish societal dynamic. The only titles that are formally used for adults by children are “mama,” “papa,” “grandma,” and “grandpa.” Aunts, uncles, teachers, neighbors, etc. are all addressed by first name from the moment a child can speak. Everyone here is an individual and is treated with the same respect. I mentioned to AnnaKarin and her friend this week that I’m surprised when a parent shares with me that she was just disciplining her child; from body language and tone of voice alone, it sounds as if they’re just discussing that evening’s dinner menu.

Here’s the deal: I don’t have babies and have barely a clue as to what it takes to raise one, let alone many. But I’m struck by what peace, priority, and respect do for relationships, within the home and in society. It’s impressive. It’s made an impact on me.

Lagom + David Bowie rock ‘n roll attitude = perfect pairing for my 40s

 

Up next on I Love Sverige…

What I’m now eating thanks to Sweden. Awesome.