To My Sister, Beth, On Her Birthday

Since it has been a month since my last post, and since today is a very special day, I figured I’d share a little bit about someone who I have spent most of my life with, and someone I could not imagine life without.

My sister, Beth.

Elizabeth Ann Aiello was born on March 19, 1973.  Being only 2 1/2 years old at the time, I was relatively unaware of what a profound impact this little girl would have on my life.

In the early 1970s, there was no way for parents determine the sex of their future child.  They had to choose boy and girl names and be ready for the outcome.  My parents chose Elizabeth Ann for a girl, and Robert Carl for a boy.  When I was much younger, I wondered what it would have been like to have Robert Carl instead of Elizabeth Ann.  But that wonder was short-lived.  I couldn’t be happier to have my little sister in my life.  I thought so then, and I think so still today.

As siblings, Beth and I grew up fairly close.  Naturally, we had our share of big fights, as any siblings do; but for the most part we got along really well.  We were each other’s best friends at times when it seemed like we didn’t have any others around.   We stuck up for each other, and watched out for each other.  We still do.

I can’t really remember my earliest memory of my sister, but thanks to a decent long-term memory, thousands of family photos, and a few treasured audio recordings from our childhood, I know we always had a fun time together.

Rick and Beth, 1975Our bedrooms were our playrooms and we’d mess them up with games and puzzles and whatever else we could get our hands on.  We played our Bee Gees and “Grease” albums until the grooves wore down, and sang along until our voices were hoarse.  Beth was always a better artist than I, but anything we could do to be creative was fun for both of us; from coloring to drawing to painting-by-numbers.

We had active and wild imaginations, and always came up with creative games to play, from “School” to “Radio Station;” to huge villages made of “Little People” houses or streets and mansions in our sandbox that our Dad built for us.  We fashioned forts in the living room out of various items, or in the backyard with our lawn chairs.  We had the most intense paper airplane wars known to mankind, and spent hours playing Monopoly, with games that lasted not hours or even days, but WEEKS.

Rick and Beth on the SwingsetSo many fun things we did are fresh in my memory:  Backyard baseball (and knocking Dad’s prized rose buds off with the baseball bat); the swingset, swinging so high that the set would ‘pump;’ making Chef Boy-Ar-Dee cheese pizzas for lunch; phone calls to WRKR and “The Real Mike Neal;” roller skating in the garage to the “Muppet Movie” soundtrack; hunting for caterpillars in Turco’s field; picking and eating the fresh raspberries in the backyard and avoiding the bumblebees; long bike rides around the block and beyond; endless summer trips to Anderson Pool, which was right at the end of our block.

The list could go on for paragraphs, and you would be reading it for hours.  It seemed we always found something to occupy our time. Most times we did things with friends, but many times we did things just with each other.  Whatever we did, we had fun doing it.

One thing we shared that has remained strong to this day is our love of music and theater.  Beth took tap dancing first, and as the story goes, she was struggling while practicing with my mom and I came up and showed her how to do the step.  My mom asked me if I wanted to take tap, too; and before I knew it we were both taking lessons.  We did that for most of our childhood, performing in recitals alone and together.  We made quite a team.

Naturally as we got older, things changed a bit.  Pre-teen tensions caused occasional angst, but we were still often  together.  We both played basketball in grade school, but she was much more active in softball, soccer and volleyball.  I always admired her for her athletic ability, which was clearly greater than mine.  As we entered high school, we kept our love of music and theater alive by performing in chorus and in musicals.  We didn’t always get the biggest roles, but we still had a great time.

When we got old enough to get jobs, we even did that together– heading down to Six Flags Great America with our friend and long-time next door neighbor Becky Turco to apply for jobs.  Little did we know at the time that we’d both spend over 10 years working at the park, learning skills that would help us determine our future careers.

But as time wore on, we finally started plotting our own paths.  I moved to Chicago in 1997, and Beth, who was the first to move out of the house in around 1994, stayed around Kenosha for a while.  Eventually she met her future husband, Geoff, and they moved to Delavan, WI together just before getting married in 2002.  It would be five years before they had their daughters, Abby and Emily; and in the span of that time, we suffered the loss of our father.  Somewhere in the course of the last decade, we became full-fledged adults.  It all happened so quickly.

Abby, Geoff, Beth and Emily - Summer 2009I love and admire my sister so much.  I probably don’t tell her that very often, and I need to be better about that.  She married a wonderful guy, has a wonderful family, and is raising her beautiful daughters with so much love and affection and attention.  She’s a wonderful mother, wife, daughter and sister.  I think she needs to hear that more frequently.

So today, on her 37th birthday (sorry, Beth, but I’m still closer to 40 so you have nothing to complain about), I wish her a happy and wonderful birthday, with many more to come.

Happy Birthday, Beth.  Love, your big bro.

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Happy 10th Birthday, Pippin!

Pippin and clock - 7weeks

In honor of Pippin’s 10th birthday, I thought it’d be fun to share a “Top 10” list of little-known Pippin facts.  Facts about my cat, not the Broadway show.

  1. Pippin was adopted from a girl I worked with at Crate & Barrel.  She put up a sign in the stockroom advertising “Gray Kittens.” She was asking $10 for each kitten, but I don’t think I ever paid her.
  2. Pippin has moved with me three times.
  3. Pippin and I spent the first few months alone, and then when we moved to Andersonville with Jason and Chad in July of 2000, he encountered his first roommate, Kiki.  I discovered that Pippin does much better living with a roommate.
  4. Pippin has 8 of his 9 lives.  He spent one when he fell out of our third floor porch window one night in 2000, which led to a frantic search for him all throughout the neighborhood.  I found him in front of the building, trying to claw himself into a basement window.
  5. Pippin met his now-brother, Screech, in May of 2001.  They’ve been inseparable ever since.
  6. Pippin 7 WeeksPippin was named after the 1971 musical, “Pippin,” by Stephen Schwartz.
  7. Pippin is definitely a Tabby, but more than one person has mentioned they can see Abyssinian in him as well.
  8. Pippin is a small cat, especially when compared to his younger, but much bigger, brother. I often wonder if he was the runt of the litter.
  9. Pippin is extremely cuddly and affectionate, but of my two boys he is absolutely the scoundrel.  If there is food within reach, Pippin will find it.
  10. When I adopted Pippin he was only 7 weeks old.  I estimated his birthday to be February 17 since I adopted him on May 17, 2000.  Adopting Pippin was one of the best things I ever did.  He’s brought me so much joy and love.  I can’t imagine not having a pet now.  These 10 years have gone by so fast… I hope we have 10 more in our future.  Happy Birthday, Pippin!

Pippin at Christmas 2009

Rick has avoidance issues…

OK so I’ve been avoiding my blog.

It’s not because I dislike it or anything… I don’t.  I just dread writing lately.  I worry that I may start a post and never finish it (because that’s NEVER happened before.  Ha ha.)  I worry that I may write too much and nobody would want to read it.  And I worry that I really have nothing to say, after all.

Well, that’s a lie.  I have plenty to say.  In fact, there have been numerous subjects on which I could have said volumes, including Proposition 8, Obama asking Rick Warren to do the invocation at the Inaguration, the holidays, New Year’s Eve and much, much more.  But as time wore on, those subjects either got old or compounded upon each other, and were relegated to the column of “old news.”  

So I’ve decided to sum up some of those things here, and maybe — just maybe — I can start 2009 with a clean slate and go on from here.  So here we go….

Proposition 8 – Clearly, this was a disappointment, and clearly, the GLBT community spoke up and spoke up loudly.  I was touched and moved by the uprising, but I did not participate in any of the protests.  Why?  Well, I missed the first one in Chicago because I already had plans to see my mom that day.  And the second one (which protested the Cinemark theatre in Evanston for its CEO’s contribution to the Yes on 8 fund) was right after the funeral of a dear friend and I just wasn’t up for it.  But the real reason is because, in my heart of hearts, I just didn’t feel the same.  All this clamoring for the title of “marriage” to be used across the board doesn’t sit well with me.  Yes, I want the same rights for all people, and yes I want that equality whether I’m gay, straight or anything… but I feel like we are so focused on the word “Marriage” that we can’t see any other possibilities.  I’m hoping that something good comes of all this in the future … and the possibility that Prop 8 (and the other props in Florida and Arizona) is overturned is still out there — but until then, I wish we could regroup and really think about what we want… and do it right this time.  

Rick Warren – No sooner than this announcement was made, GLBT people were shouting “FOUL” and “BETRAYED” and calling Obama a traitor, worrying that he would do to us what Clinton did with “Dont’ Ask, Don’t Tell.”  I, however, looked at it as a positive.  Yes, the man is evil and has said some terrible things about our community… but the fact that he is there, among Democrats who believe and want everything he doesn’t… is significant.  I truly think his presence there will not have such a profound effect on anything at all.  It is merely a presence.  It actually speaks louder to his ability to see other views than anything else.  Obama isn’t going to alienate what he believes in because of who he asks to give an invocation.  So I kept silent on the issue– until now.  I know my view is not popular amongst my peers… but that’s just how I feel.  

And now on to more fun things…

The Holidays were a joy.  Christmas Day with the twins was full of laughter and love, and the girls were absolutely adorable.  They’ve reached the age where they can actually laugh and enjoy the holiday… and to see them with their toys was so much fun.  For those of you on Facebook, I have pictures up of them opening their gifts and playing with them, here and here.  

And finally, New Year’s Eve was a great time.  I went to my friend Ricardo’s for dinner, and we all shared our goals for 2009 and what we learned in 2008… it was an emotional and sweet moment when each of us professed our love for each other, as friends and as family.  I’ve said it before – I have some of the most wonderful friends a guy could ask for.  I love them dearly.  Afterwards we proceeded to Sidetrack to ring in the new year — the first time I had been to a bar for New Year’s Eve in many years.  I had a great time, and I think 2009 will be a really wonderful year for all of us.

So that’s about it.  Here we are, the first Monday of 2009.  Everyone is back to work, and life continues on from this point.  I’m grateful to be employed, and thankful to be alive and well.  In this day and age, what more can you ask for?

So to all of you, a happy and healthy new year.  It’ll be DIVINE in 2009! 🙂

The weather outside is spiteful, but the year was fairly delightful.

Christmas in my Living Room

It’s December 23.  Christmas Eve Eve.  And it’s only one day into meterological winter.  

But you’d never know it with the way things have been in Chicago lately.  

No dreaming about a White Christmas this year.  We’re gonna have one.  Plain and simple.  We’ve had more snow and cold already… pre-winter… than in any year I can remember.  It’s caused tons of accidents, a few cold-related deaths, and lot of bursted pipes and radiators throughout the city. 

But thankfully, around here it’s been pretty nice.  The radiators work great, the hot water flows freely, and everything is warm and cozy.  

I guess there isn’t too much to complain about then, is there?

Truly, this winter – and the year that preceded it, has been pretty good.  Oh sure it had its rough spots (as all years do), but for the most part I look back on 2008 with a sense of happiness and fondness.  

As the year started, I decided it was time to concentrate on friendships.  I felt that I had not been a good friend to the ones I had, and did not open myself up to new friendships nearly enough.  As the year closes, I feel closer to my friends than ever before, and am proud to include a new group of people in my life as friends.  I have also reconnected with a lot of old friends (thanks mainly to Facebook), and have rekindled some friendships that never really died in the first place– but were just on hold for the past 10 or 15 years.  

Family has become even more important as well.  With the birth of my twin nieces, Abby and Emily, in February, my family has found a new reason to celebrate and love.  Their presence in our lives has given us such great joy, and watching them grow has already been so much fun.  As a result, my family is closer than ever, and it’s been incredibly rewarding.  

With the collapsing economy, I have become ever more thankful for the presence of work in my life.  I am thankful I am employed, and by such a good company.  I am treated fairly and paid well.  I can’t complain about that at all.  It’s a blessing to be employed.  

Money, however, has been my one major shortfall this year, and that is of my own doing.  In the next year, I need to trim the fat and live leaner and more within my means.  It’s going to be hard, and may require a lot of sacrifices, but I absolutely need to do this in order to survive into the next year with my head above water.  

All along, this blog has been there.  And while I haven’t been writing as much as I used to, it’s been a comfort to know that I can put my thoughts here and share them with you.  Thank you for all of your kind words and encouragement over the years.  I really appreciate you, too.

So with that, I am signing off for 2008.  There’s lots of things going on between now and the New Year, so I don’t anticipate that I will post again until 2009.  

I wish you and your families and your friends a safe and wonderful holiday season, and a delightful new year.  Salute!