I had a very Walton-esque childhood, full of love, fun, adventure, great friends, escapades and good ole school discipline when we got caught. Clearly a paramount memory is the literally amazing home cooked meals that were prevalent three times a day. We all just marinated in these astonishing foods and meals prepared by an army of iconic women. They effortlessly created over-the-top holidays from recipes with no measuring cups or teaspoons. These meals still rein as the best food I have ever had anywhere in the world. I knew I was blessed since my friends where having raviolis from a can. Most of these epic meals were recipes that have been in my family hundreds of years. It is such an honor for me to cook like my ancestors in the 1800’s and repeat a tradition that simply cannot be lost to a microwave and a can opener. I have never had a frozen dinner and I think microwaves should be illegal.

I know some shall read this and say I am food obsessed but there is also such a heritage and enormity of fond memories that drives and binds it. So, ya – I thoroughly enjoyed eating my way through my entire childhood, never stopping for an instant to ponder the metric tons of white flour we all consumed as the quintessential Italian family.

I will be the first to say I ate enough food for a small elephant on a regular basis and oddly enough did not gain weight. I actually had friends and a cousin ask me if I was Bulimic which I simply dismissed as “odd.” I craved sugar and sweets like an addict and never had a “sweet tooth.” I always said it was a “sweet jaw.” I easily consumed the Halloween candy well before the holiday forcing my mother to purchase more. She even hid it in the trunk of her car in the garage and I found it with my bionic sense of smell. It wasn’t until I went off to college in Boston that I truly realized for a very small framed person, I could consume an abnormal amount of alcohol and it literally had no effect on me. Many dates I went on probably never ended the way my date thought since he would usually run out of funds while I remained perfectly fine. Actually, I became the designated driver many, many times. It was not until I was diagnosed some twenty years later that I was told these were huge Celiac speed bumps I simply sped over.

I began to have digestive issues that were quickly diagnosed as “Irritable Bowel”, “Colitis” and then the ominous “Crones Disease”. I was a natural athlete in school and had a very high tolerance for pain which was another marker everyone missed. Doubling over with a sensation that swords where going through my gut like a rouge circus act became the norm. So I just upped my game of “grin and ignore it.” Sometimes I would untie and retie my sneaker so no one would notice me bend in half.  And then eventually I won – only the slight watering of my eyes that I would dismiss as a contact lens issue was all that was visible from the mind bending pain.

I began to have some disturbing symptoms that rapidly progressed to blood when I passed solid waste. So, I went on the internet and thought I would wait until after Thanksgiving to announce to my family I was dying of colon cancer since that was the prevalent web conclusion. From that time on I began seeing world class Doctors for we were blessed they were so abundant in Boston – like fields and fields of dazzling, wild orchids that were always in bloom. Appointment after appointment after appointment until finally painful leg ulcers birthed a side order of quiet desperation. I had a pretty indomitable spirit that championed even the biggest and longest succession of challenges so I pushed forward. And pushed. And pushed. I got a PhD in “grin and ignore it.” Prescriptions, specialists, experiments, and trials – all that seemed to go nowhere. I resigned that this was my lot and marched on.

The next marker made me feel like the Grinch: “all the noise, noise, noise, noise.” For no matter what amazing function I elegantly dressed and attended, I always had the loudest stomach that stopped conversations which were happening around me. I am confident I did not get a job I was interviewing for because when the VP was talking and passing me a paper my stomach interrupted him. He was shocked and looked up at me to say: “excuse me what did you say?” and I embarrassingly replied “I didn’t say anything Sir.” Needless to say Cybill didn’t get that job. So, then I got very good at coordinating the traveling band I was becoming. Since my stomach would yell everywhere I had to be amazing at IMPROV. Several times while at the movies all the people anywhere near me eventually wanted to rise up and throw the loud offender out of the show, so I joined them in looking around and loudly saying “what IS that?” just so no one would know it was me. Another physical marker that I failed to recognize but simply added it to the cache of craziness I now just called “the art of being ME.”