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28Nov

The Waiting Room

Patience is a virtue, I know, but it’s not my virtue.

I would tell you that the problem is my current schedule, that if time weren’t such a commodity I’d happily lean back in my raft and let the hours carry me downstream, but I can remember this sense of urgency dogging me even on childhood afternoons when I had nothing to do but roost in my favorite tree reading Nancy Drew. I’ve always been a wind-up doll, whirling into my own momentum when I’m in motion, tense with expectation when I’m at rest.

I know better than to take it personally when the traffic turns to sludge or the customer in front of me brandishes fifty-seven coupons or the office is now closed, please come back tomorrow. But folks… the struggle is real. I need no reminders to rage, rage against the dying of the light. What I do need is practice at peeling my one eye away from the clock and my other eye from the lady in front of me who is describing her lunch in microscopic detail to the cashier even though I just need to pay for the one pair of socks. I need practice at taking the pace of the real world in stride.

And I am here today to attest that there is no better opportunity to practice this than when your calendar becomes polka-dotted with doctor’s appointments. I’ve been to eleven in the last three weeks. Eleven, which are about ten and a half more doctor’s appointments than we have in an average month. Some of them have been routine visits for the girls, but the rest have been for me, and I can’t tell you how far outside my comfort zone this catapults me, how poorly I deal with medical limbo.

Something is wrong with my body—maybe my heart, maybe my thyroid, maybe something else entirely. We don’t know yet, and this is the kind of wait that feels like it might just wind me a click past my stretchability.

There are the hours spent in waiting rooms… Yellow chairs, blue chairs, clinical beige, institutional gray. Signs on every door saying “Don’t Knock.” A solitary signal bar on my phone that comes and goes as if riding the tide of my thoughts.

And then there are the hours spent in my mind, a waiting room that never closes… Deep maroon worry, fluorescent blinks of irritation, blank putty-colored stretches of unknowing. All possible outcomes waiting behind those closed doors on which I’m not allowed to knock. An off-tempo pendulum swinging between anxiety and chagrin.

Because what it it’s nothing? What if I continue to ace these medical tests until the only explanation left is that I’m a psychosomatic phony? I honestly couldn’t tell you if the outcome I dread most is a diagnosis or the lack of one. Either way, I wait.

It feels like trying to sprint underwater, urgency trapped in slow motion. I often find myself thinking that I just want resolution so I can get on with my life, and that’s a normal response, right? I’m sure I’ve heard that sentiment expressed by at least a dozen characters on House and something like two hundred on Grey’s Anatomy (which is impressive considering I’ve only seen a handful of episodes). I realize though that when I think this way, it shows I’ve let the parameters of my world shrink to the size of a waiting room. I’ve let one small arena of unknowing press pause on my entire life.

Well then. You’ve heard the Thomas à Kempis quote, “The acknowledgement of our weakness is the first step in repairing our loss”? In this, at least, I can feel like I’m making progress. The last few weeks have failed to turn me into a breezy and beatific version of myself, but I have felt the headlong staccato of my mind relaxing a bit as I’ve reminded myself (and re-reminded myself… and re-re-reminded myself) that life goes on.

Which it does, of course, in all its beautiful, maddening, un-streamlined glory. My days continue to fill like overstuffed gift baskets. The traffic is in there, but so are story times with the girls and coffee dates with the husband and three-hour dinner conversations with friends. The doctor’s appointments are in there, but so are leftover apple pies and Sufjan’s Songs for Christmas. There’s reassurance, actually, in knowing that life is absolutely unruffled by my impatience with it. I’m glad to remain a minor character if it means that in my pauses just as in my fast-forwards, life will go on going on.

It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s my cliché.

12Nov

Stop This Train

I don’t know how it goes down in your neck of the woods, but the Polar Express has a habit of showing up around here nearly two months ahead of schedule. It tends to barrel into me around the first of November, all twinkle lights and full steam ahead, which is patently unfair. After all, autumn only recently got herself settled in. Mr. Skinnybones, our happy Halloween skeleton, is still hanging in the doorway with whatever accessories the girls have draped over him for the day. I’m only just beginning to turn my mind toward turkey and communal gratitude. You can’t stop a locomotive though, and once it hits, I’m along for the slap-dash race toward Christmas.

It knocks the breath out of me every dang year.

I still haven’t entirely reconciled with the fact that I’m a designated magic-maker now. Nine Christmases into parenting, and I still feel like some elf somewhere should be assigned to help me turn craft supplies and cookie dough and toys encased in bulletproof plastic into a holiday experience greater than the sum of its parts. All Santa sends, however, is his train, which flips calendar pages wildly in its wake and reminds me how few shopping days are left if I want free shipping. Which of course I do. Who wouldn’t?

The thing is, I ache every year for Christmas to be both bigger and smaller than it is, and shopping is without question the part I wish were smaller. Giving, on the other hand, is my favorite. It’s the one thing about the holidays that needs no manufactured fairy dust at all in order to thrill and fulfill. There’s always a significant disconnect for me though between spending and giving, and that’s where the source of my holiday angst lies.

I realize that at this point I’m in danger of sounding like one of those soapbox speakers railing against the consumerism in our society and shaming people for buying so much as a stocking stuffer, and oh goodness no. Watching my girls open their presents on Christmas morning turns on every twinkle light in my soul. I suspect however that I am not the only parent who goes into January with far more thoughts on the money she shelled out for those gifts than on the joy of watching them opened.

Right?

My giving feels stilted by the need to accumulate. I feel trapped each year into spending however much it takes for the pile of gifts under our tree to look sufficiently impressive, and that sense of rush and scarcity and helpless forward motion starts… well, approximately a week and a half ago. I’m on the train already, but the difference this year is that I’m brainstorming an escape plan.

I’m thinking of how the girls literally skip around the grocery store when we’re filling a bag for our Nigerian friend begging outside, how they can’t wait to hand over the bread and oranges and chocolate and soup mix and wish him a happy afternoon. What if we included him in our Christmas plans? Asked him what other kinds of needs he and his roommates have and tried to meet some of them as a family?

I’m thinking of how Krista Smith is going to do daily acts of kindness with her children in December instead of going with a traditional toy- or chocolate-stuffed advent calendar. In the interest of full disclosure, we already have an advent calendar tucked in the back of the closet (both Dan and I have a weakness for all things Lego), but I love the idea of adding on an advent action as well. Mailing cards to people who might be feeling lonely, taking a plate of muffins to the single mom in our building, choosing a few toys or clothes to give away, helping babysit our friends’ newborn so they can go out for an hour on their own, checking out Momastery’s Holiday Hands listings for anything we might be able to contribute… None of it would take much time or money. Just intention.

I’m thinking of how my homegirl Erika is gifting her sons with Help One Now child sponsorships because it is going to make her boys’ hearts glow wonderland-style to know that three more Haitian children are going to have food on their tables and parents by their sides this Christmas. I know that there are so many charitable opportunities this time of year that you can’t massage your overwhelmed temples without your elbows knocking into one. In fact, I wrote several years ago about how all the needs brought to my attention every day on social media were paralyzing me, and how do you care for one cause without caring for them all and coming unhinged in the process? The truce I’ve struck since with my conscience if that one need particularly grabs me and I can do something about it, I have the freedom to do so without guilt or second-guessing. Child sponsorships are especially dear to my heart, and if we can commit the funds, I’d love to add one of these sweet faces to our Christmas morning lineup.

I’m thinking of simplicity this year. Fewer homemade cookies (sorry, local friends!) so that we can have more time to open our home to people. Fewer purchased presents so that we can have more resources for giving and less stress overall. Fewer commitments so that we can spend more time together as a family (Lego play day, anyone?). Fewer concessions to obligation so that we can make this year about celebration instead.

Any of you up for jumping the track with me?

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31Oct

What to Expect When You’re Expatriating

The Internet is a horror story playbook when you’re trying to put together your expat birth plan. It’s not even a birth plan really; you just want to know what to expect when the contractions start, when you’re wheeled or walked or whisked into the maternity ward by people who speak a language other than your own. You’ve heard rumors that hospital patients in Italy have to bring their own toilet paper, their own bandages, even their own night nurses. Your obstetrician only tells you that you’ll need to bring “tamponi,” which means exactly what you think it does… but could also translate as any kind of absorbent swab or pad. Even an inkpad. You’re overwhelmed by the unknowing. It feels like you’ve been cast to star in a play but haven’t been given the script, and Opening Day is ticking closer and closer and closer.

So you do what any 21st century deer-in-the-headlights would do: You turn to Dr. Google.

The problem with public forums, however, is that people don’t generally use them to share their Kodak Moments. According to the Internet of 2007, no American or British expat has ever had a birth in Italy go well. An image grows in your mind of doctors with sauce-stained mustachios operating on you with pizza cutters in the hallway of a former Fascist bunker. You pack your hospital bag with gowns and eating utensils and towels and diapers and Tylenol and your best guess at “tamponi” and so much worry that your whole heart goes numb from it. How are you going to get through this?

/ / /

Your baby is too large. The 38-week ultrasound shows her to weigh nearly 4½ kg. (over 10 lbs.), and at your 39-week checkup, the doctor determines that based on the baby’s head size and your internal structure, you will be unable to deliver naturally. This explains why the contractions you’ve been having for weeks now haven’t gotten you anywhere. You don’t know exactly how to feel about this, but you’ve already had one C-section; at least tomorrow’s delivery will be familiar territory.

You return to the hospital that evening to settle in so you’ll be ready to go first thing in the morning. The nurse who checks you in is annoyed that you don’t speak the language well, that you don’t know your weight in kilograms or your height in centimeters or the words for all the health conditions she chants off her clipboard. You want to explain that you’ve been in the country less than three months, but you’re afraid of planting yourself deeper in the immigrant stereotype in her mind. You feel like an unprepared student on test day. You’re sorry to be a bother.

That night, you don’t sleep. Your hospital roommate has just had a C-section herself, and her moans coupled with the whimpers of her newborn boy mark the hours like a pair of restless chimes. You wouldn’t be getting much rest anyway; your contractions have amped up, making a clenched fist of your belly every few minutes, squeezing the air out of your lungs and shooting electricity down through your hips. You get out the final Harry Potter book, the treat you’ve been saving for just this occasion, but it’s small comfort. You’re terrified of the next day, of surgery in a foreign context, of the potential complications of birth, of not knowing how to love your new baby. (After all, how could you have any mamalove left to give when the whole sum is already curled up in a toddler bed back at home?)

/ / /

You’re prepped for surgery at 9:00 in the morning, but then every pregnant woman in the city seems to need an emergency C-section. You lie on a gurney with an IV for the next 4½ hours waiting for your turn and wondering if you’re now in the thick of your own forum-worthy horror story. The anesthesiologist has had to eyeball your height and weight because you still don’t know them in the damn metric system, and what if he gets the dosage wrong? What if your doctor is worn out from the gauntlet of unscheduled surgeries? What if you don’t understand what the obstetrics team is telling you to do? Your husband isn’t allowed in the operating room, and Dr. Google’s is the loudest voice you can hear as you’re finally escorted in to lie beneath a cluster of jewel-toned lights.

To your intense relief, the anesthesia takes. The medical team is upbeat and kind. They chat lightheartedly while you try not to think about the zipper-like tugs coming from your abdomen or the little spirals of smoke drifting up into view. Despite how disconcerting surgery can be to experience, everything is actually going okay. You are okay. The forum threads begin to fade from view as the present comes ever into focus. The tugs on your lower body grow more insistent. A sense of collective breath-holding takes over the room.

And then…

She’s born. You feel her weight leave your body just as the obstetrician cheers, “Eccola! Here she is!” Mother instinct floods your mind so quickly that it knocks common sense straight out; all you can think of is her, and you spring forward on the operating table, oblivious to the gaping incision across your abdomen. “NO!” ten doctors yell in unison pulling you back down. You laugh, partly from embarrassment but mostly from delight. Your daughter is here.

 Sophie's birth - Newborn

Someone brings your tiny-huge baby over for you to kiss, and your heart swells, filling the space she so recently vacated. Mamalove is a multiplication table, you realize. This new babe has your whole heart as surely as her older sister does. The details you’ve been worrying about up until now no longer matter. Not significantly, at any rate. Not enough to overshadow the big picture that is filling in with color and dimension at every breath.

She’s the star of the show. She was always going to be. If you could have written the script for her birth, it would have looked much different; you don’t mean to discount yours or any other mother’s longing for a familiar setting or a peaceful natural delivery. You’re baby’s out safely though, and all your earlier fears are eclipsed by the warmth of her cheek against your lips, the grip of her little fingers on yours, the sweet murmuring noises she makes as she gets used to the taste of air. She’s the outcome of all expectations, and in this moment, Kodak’s got nothing on you.

Sophie's birth - Mom

Happy seventh birthday, Sophie Ruth! I’m so very, very glad you were born.

Sophie's seventh birthday
(Photo by Dan)

24Oct

Our Ordinary (One Day 2014)

I am not an avid Instagrammer. I wish I were, but my days get busy, and I forget to be noticeful, and even when I do snap a picture, nine times out of ten I put off posting it because writing on my phone still feels to me like eating with chopsticks once did. (My fingers are creatures of habit on par with aging hobbits.) Perhaps this is why I was so eager to participate in Hollywood Housewife’s One Day project this week, documenting my ordinary, unembellished Wednesday on Instagram. The concept grabbed me both because I love being able to look back at the daily life of our family in its various stages and because I imagine some of you are at least a smidgen curious about what passes for “normal” here in expat-entrepreneurland.

Wednesday morning, therefore, I woke up and started snapping photos (not necessarily in that order) aaaannnnddd… did not manage to Instagram a one. In fact, I didn’t even have a chance to follow friends’ #OneDayHH streams, so full did my day become. However, I still have the photos, and if you’ll forgive the fact that these are coming a few days late and without any fancy filters, I’d love to share what passes for an average Wednesday around here.

Read More »

15Oct

“Me Too” Moments With Myself

Having minored in psychology back in the day, I’m no stranger to the personality test. Every week or so in class, I’d be handed a questionnaire, the answers to which would reveal my Jungian archetype or my Type A/B profile or the likelihood that I would curl up in a ball and cry if ever put in charge of a junior high field trip. (Answer: 1 zillion percent.) I took these questionnaires as seriously as if they were pop quizzes, and I could never get past the feeling that I was unprepared. True, it doesn’t get much more open-book than using your own brain as reference for how you operate.  The problem was that I could never confidently circle one choice and move on.

“You know how to put every minute of your time to good purpose: YES or NO?”

Yes. Well, sort of. I suppose it would be accurate to say that I TRY to put every minute of my time to good purpose, but whether I’m actually accomplishing that or not is up for debate. I mean, yesterday evening I spent an hour and a half sneaking around with my roommate pranking the student art exhibit with creations we made out of paper towels and Sharpies, and while fun, it was probably not the best use of an hour and a half. On the other hand, it was a great bonding experience for my roomie and I. On the other other hand, though, we could have bonded over preemptively studying for finals or something. But we made memories! But we also wasted paper towels. Also, come to think of it, we may have inadvertently offended some of our classmates who contributed real art to the exhibit, which wasn’t our intention. If anything, we were trying to make fun of Picasso who is both famous and dead enough to take a little ribbing. Oh crap, now I’m making fun of dead people and putting my soul in jeopardy when I should be finishing up this questionnaire, which clearly shows that I don’t know how to put every minute of my time to good purpose, and oh hell…

Innocent Bethany
“Capillary Attraction” on Quilted Bounty

I probably should have ended up as somebody’s case study.

Recently though, I learned why personality tests have always been such a struggle for me, and in a neat ode to irony, I learned this from a personality test itself. Dan was away on a business trip, and I had about twenty-five too many things to do before I picked up the girls from school… so naturally, I decided to ditch the list and give myself an impromptu crash course in Enneagram theory instead. (See earlier re: knowing how to put every moment of time to good purpose. Boy do I ever.) Have you heard of the Enneagram* before? It had been on my radar for a year or so, but I’d always regarded the topic more or less the way I do the essential oils trend: so preemptively exhausted by the idea that FOMO** doesn’t even put up a fight.

* Pronounced “ANY-a-gram” for those of you whose brains, like mine, begin to melt with anxiety when they can’t figure out how to pronounce a word.

** “Fear Of Missing Out” for those of you whose brains, like mine, huddle up in a dark corner to cry when they can’t figure out an acronym.

I can’t tell you why I suddenly decided that I needed to learn everything about the Enneagram over the course of one too-busy Thursday morning, but I’m glad that I did. And by “glad,” I mean wildly relieved with a side of regret for not having researched this sooner. The longer I read, the clearer it became that despite my psychology textbooks and decades-old journals and lifelong fascination with human nature, I had never seen myself fitting in among the spectrum of personhood. I had spent every minute of my life to date thinking of myself as an anomaly.

That, I learned within two seconds of completing the Enneagram test, is because I’m an Individualist. Seeing myself as fundamentally different from everyone else on earth is a trait that I share with approximately one out of nine people (including, I’m charmed to say, both Kat Von D. and Rumi). Uncertainty about our identities is a hallmark of our personality type, as is withdrawal into the solitary mazes of our emotions. I might be a weird and complicated human being, but anomaly I most certainly am not.

Don’t worry; I’m not about to put you through a crash course in the Enneagram system (though if you’re interested, I’ll link to some resources at the end), nor am I going to expound much further on what my personality type entails. To be honest, I cringe at the thought of anyone reading up on my type as it so exactly describes me and is so unflinchingly thorough. That’s the difference that this personality test made for me above all the others though: It showed me a complete portrait of myself, good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, advantages and pitfalls, ways that I make the world a better place and ways that I inflict damage on it.

Looking at myself that way—as a multi-dimensional member of a known group instead of as an incomprehensible loner—is good and hard at once. I think that part of me was attached to the idea that I was utterly unique and that my shortcomings could be explained away as idiosyncrasies. If I didn’t understand all of myself, then I didn’t need to face all of myself. Now, it’s as if someone has handed me a close-up picture of my face with blemishes and wrinkles and scars enhanced rather than Photoshopped away, and it doesn’t make for a feel-good viewing experience.

That said, the wild relief I mentioned earlier flows deeper than discomfort. Being known as myself by myself is a gift to my thirties, the self-discovery I never quite attained during the years traditionally earmarked for it. I’m seeing clearly at last how all my mannerisms trace paths back to the same emotional switchboard, how I make sense even when I don’t. I’ve become an observer of my own overthinking ways instead of their victim. I have the perspective now to strategize my own growth instead of floundering in despair. And what’s more, so very much more, I’m not alone. I’ve got Johnny Depp and Frida Kahlo and Tchaikovsky in this Type 4 camp with me after all.

I’m reminded of the scene in “The Matrix Reloaded” (bear with me here) in which the Oracle tells Neo that he’s already made a choice; now he just needs to understand why he made it. I didn’t get that line at the time, probably because they’re talking about Neo’s choice to eat a piece of candy, and what is there to figure out? Candy is delicious and should be eaten, the end. Eleven years after watching the film, though, I’m starting to find just how empowering it can be to understand your own motivations. Knowing what makes you tick is a powerful confidence-builder, and being able to offer a sympathetic “Me too!” to yourself when thoughts or feelings overwhelm is one of the most effective self-care techniques I’ve found.

It feels an awful lot like making a friend.

What do you think about self-analysis and personality tests? Is there one in particular that’s helped you to make sense of yourself? (If you answer “Which Twilight Character Are You?” I’m going to force you to watch this until your eyeballs bleed.)

Oh, and if you’re interested in learning more about the Enneagram, you can dive into the information online at the Enneagram Institute, read the founders’ Introduction to the Enneagram, check out Richard Rohr’s A Christian Perspective, or take advantage of my friend Leigh’s personal coaching services.

7Oct

Confessions of a Terrible Texter

This past Saturday evening, I found myself standing in the middle of the kitchen with a stick of butter in my hand and absolutely no idea what I’d intended to do with it. This was concerning to me, given that not thirty seconds before, I had opened the fridge with no clue what I was trying to retrieve from it. Apparently, I had remembered—butter!—and then forgotten again in the time it would take a competent adult human to spell a-m-n-e-s-i-a. “What am I trying to do?” I wailed to Dan, who was busy preparing dinner. He looked at me the way one might regard a self-cannibalizing pet*, equal parts concern and WTF?!

*We once had a hamster named Pickle who gnawed his own leg to smithereens. Better, I suppose, than our mouse Minnie who, despite her chummy name, ate her two little terrarium-mates one weekend when we were out of town. We don’t have the best track record with rodents.

Brownies. I was making brownies. I couldn’t seem to hold that thought still in my focus for longer than twenty seconds though. After re-finding my place in the recipe, I deposited the butter in a double boiler and then looked around the kitchen feeling lost and fragmented. All I really wanted to do in that moment was pull my smartphone out of my pocket and retreat into the lull of social media streams. The impulse was so strong, so insistent and sudden and reactive, that it startled me more than my memory lapses had done. Was I really about to soothe my disengaged mind by disengaging further?

I finished baking in a kind of unsatisfied stupor.

/ / /

On Sunday afternoon, a friend texted me saying she’d noticed we weren’t at church that morning, and was everyone well? I read her text and then mentally added it to the long list of messages awaiting my reply. Of course I should have written back immediately. It would have taken a single minute of my time and then been off my mind, plus it would have communicated my very real gratitude for her concern. Texting for me, however, has always taken on a form of Gestalt psychology in which my reply is weightier than the sum of its parts—the minute of time it takes, the choice of wording, the motion of my finger on the touchscreen. Entering a conversation requires my presence.

[Cue the overwhelm.]

Text messaging. WhatsApp. Voxer. Twitter. Facebook. Pinterest. Instagram. Each one a little universe full of people I care about, people to whom I want to give my full energy, attention, and emotional engagement. It’s not possible though, at least not considering my personality** and the creaking slowness with which my brain changes direction. I want to be present for all, but I can’t, and my extremely unhelpful coping strategy is to check out. Use social media to escape rather than engage. Let the faint interactive buzz of clicking “Like” substitute for the warmth of hard-won connection.

** ISTJ for you Myers-Briggs folks, Type 4 for you Enneagrammers. Basically, I’m an introvert who overthinks everything, including which personality test highlights this the best.

Tucking all these potential conversations away into spare pockets of my brain for later retrieval only serves to make me more fragmented, but the more fragmented I become, the more compulsively I scroll through social media in search of distraction. It’s the worst kind of loop, the kind that leaves me guilty and tired and replaces a section of my brain with Swiss cheese every time I pass “Go.”

I still haven’t replied to that text.

/ / /

Everyone and his Great Aunt Ruth knows that to make it in the online world these days, one needs to be both proficient and prolific in social media. This has a way of freezing my fingers cold on the keys.

If I can’t generate frequent snack packs of content throughout each day in addition to these slow-cooked posts, then am I in the wrong field? How are other writers able to be “on” for so long and in so many places each day without flying into a billion brittle bits?

I know the answer, of course, or at least some of its nuances. I know that personality and temperament have more of an impact on us than we often realize (more on this in an upcoming post) and that some good folks derive energy from the very things that sap mine. I know that a tremendous amount of work is often tucked into the archives of success, that diligence has its reward and its cost. I know that the sacrifices behind the scenes of others’ art might put my small concessions to shame. I also know that one size was never meant to fit all, no matter what the business experts claim.

Still, opening Twitter feels like smacking myself repeatedly in the face with a flunk card.

/ / /

I confess that while part of me feels snubbed every time a friend announces that he or she is sick of social media and wishes to get rid of it forever, another part of me completely understands. It’s not from the social media itself that I want freedom but from my own responses to it, the stress and disconnect and addiction and guilt, the impulse to self-soothe by scrolling through contacts’ photo streams, the wild-eyed withdrawal from conversation. I’d like to think that this is what my friends have meant as well—that we’re sick of the versions of ourselves we encounter when we reach for our smartphones.

This confession doesn’t come with a moral or with a list of tidy solutions. I will still be a terrible texter and a flaky Facebooker when the sun comes up tomorrow. (If you’re one of the ones waiting on a reply from me, I am sorry and can offer you contrition brownies if you come over.) Rather, this is my way of looking the beast in the eye and owning the reflection of myself I find there. It’s a truth-telling exercise. It’s a return to engagement, slow-cooker style.

1Oct

An Expat Shops for Candy Corn

While the expat life in Italy has presented me with its fair share of struggles—bureaucracy, language barriers, and… well, bureaucracy being the top three—food is not one of them. Italian cuisine is why dinners here can last six hours. It’s why some of our Italian friends bring suitcases full of food when they travel internationally. It’s why Dean Martin could get away with mentioning bean soup in a love song. It’s why pizza IS. No, I am certainly not suffering here.

Every now and then though, I find myself craving some processed and preservative-laden treat from across the sea, something that tastes of America! and also corn syrup! This happens every October as the leaves begin to change and their bright orange and yellow hues inevitably turn my mind to the magic of candy corn. Do you remember that scene in Elf where Will Ferrell lists the four main food groups as “candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup”? I totally agree. The whole-wheat flour and broccoli I feed my family are just for health show.

The problem is that one cannot buy candy corn here, at least not anywhere I’ve found so far in our smallish city. World-class chocolate, yes. Stripey fangs of compressed sugar-plastic that look and taste nothing like corn but are somehow still symbolic of harvest season in the United States, no. Today, however, I had the brilliant idea to search on Amazon.it. We can buy Yankee Candles and American flags through it, so why not candy corn?

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Alas. It turns out that Italian Amazon does not stock actual candy corn. However, you’d be happy to know that with a single click, one can purchase any of the following substitute items:

The most dynamic cross-stitch pattern ever, in English! (“This title not available in your country.”)

Cross stitch pattern.png

This genius smartphone game, which the product description calls both “beautiful” and “eye-popping.” (Is it just me, or does Man Boobs here appear to be lactating golf balls?)

Man boobs.png

Candy Corn Duck Tape, for repairing your HVAC systems, restraining your hyperactive children, and sealing up your man boobs in the full spirit of the season:

Duck Tape.png

Candy corn-themed crochet patterns so that you too can blend in among the European chic…

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 …AND be the envy of your local poncho club…

Poncho pattern.png

…AND add an extra element of class to your Halloween soirée:

Wine bottle cozy pattern.png

Rarelove Sterling Silver Halloween pumpkin corn candy Heart Photo Charm Beads… which might be something you smoke for all the sense I can make out of that description, but hey—it’s on sale!

Sterling Silver pumpkin corn candy Heart Photo Charm Beads.png

Some fun tunes for your neighborhood trick-or-treat party:

Music - explicit.png

What’s that, you say? You’d prefer something less psychotic suicide clown skull fun and more happy fun? Not to worry, this super non-creepy hand-goose is here to help:

Music - happy fun songs.png
(I just listened to this song’s MP3 sample in the name of journalistic integrity, and I can now confirm with 97% certainty that it was indeed played by a goose.)

Back to literal candy corn now, on which this delicious and exclamation-point-worthy party game is based! (Please note: Game pieces neither included nor available for sale anywhere things are sold.)

Bingo - Just add candy corn.png

A candle made expressly to taunt expats with the scent of wishful thinking:

Yankee Candles.png

And last but not least, this yarn, which appears to have been thrown up on by a Dreamsicle with tuberculosis:


Yarn.png
(Who’s up for a parfait?)

So no luck buying my favorite Octoberly vice off Amazon. However, the internet is full of recipes for homemade candy corn; all I have to do is track down some powdered milk, and we’ll be in business!

Search bar - powdered milk.png

Powdered milk.png

Uh…

 

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