Archive for the 'Family matters' Category

Have yourself a dysfunctional little Christmas

Stress and holidays go together like overcooked turkey and dry dressing and what’s more stressful than the thought of a new love interest meeting your entire dysfunctional family?

Seriously, what do you do? Bring your new squeeze home to meet your scrapping siblings or come up with a glib excuse to keep them away? Warn them about Uncle Toby’s drinking problem ahead of time or cross your fingers and hope he doesn’t attack them under the mistletoe?  

I’ve certainly been in the unenviable and (awkward!) position of introducing a new date to the dysfunctional family fold — as have many others – and thought it might be a fun topic to explore for’s Happen Magazine.

According to psychotherapist Tina Tessina, prepping a new love interest for the family dynamic is crucial (i.e., “By the way, honey, if my brother-in-law offers to show you his stomach surgery scar, tell him no or else you won’t be able to eat dinner”). Secret signals can also come in handy, like a finger across the throat when your new girlfriend keeps encouraging Grandpa to discuss his recent teabagging escapades (political and otherwise).

Wondering how you can reconcile a new boyfriend or girlfriend with an alcoholic dad, a hoarding mom and/or a trio of sniping sisters-in-law? Then click here and read on. And as always, feel free to share your own stories of dysfunctional family gatherings (is there any other kind?).  Merry Christmas, friends and readers, and all the best to you — and your families — in 2010.  

Happy Mother’s Day, Viva

viva-mapesA week or so ago, I took a break from my usual reported stories on health, lifestyle and dating issues to write a personal essay about losing my mom — and finding her again in my four sisters. The essay went live today – Mother’s Day — on Here’s a link.

As I mentioned in the piece, my mom was quite a character. She loved to laugh, loved to cook and especially loved gathering her five daughters (and their husbands and kids) around her. Family get-togethers at the Mapes house were raucous affairs: barking dogs, squawking birds, screaming kids, clanging pots and pans, loud laughter, a blaring TV, and somebody inevitably pounding on that one lone bathroom door.

I miss it like crazy. I miss her like crazy. Thanks to the cookbook Viva gave me in 1998, though, I’m able to at least conjure up some of the wonderful dishes she served up for her “girls” during those infamous family dinners. Today, in honor of my mom and mothers everywhere, I thought I’d pass along Viva’s recipe for what my sisters and I used to call “Moldy Green Salad” when we were little.

Back then, none of us would touch this light green concoction save my sister Mary, who was always pretty fearless. Since we’ve gotten older, though, we’ve all learned to love “MGS” and it’s now a regular part of our holiday lineup. You may want to add it to yours since, as my mom notes in the cookbook, “it goes good with turkey.”

Molded Green Salad  “Mary’s favorite recipe”
Note to readers: My mom would usually include a brief notation as to who liked what with each recipe. One of my favorite notations, under Margaritas, simply reads “Mark likes.”

1 small package lemon Jell-O
1 small package lime Jell-O

Dissolve above in 2 cups boiling water. Stir well and cool. Mix together in a large bowl:

1 # carton cottage cheese
1 # can crushed pineapple
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup whipped cream (unwhipped)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon horseradish (note: I never include this)
Dash of salt

Add cooled Jell-O to above mix. Mix well. Pour into rectangle Pyrex pan. Let set in refrigerator overnight. Serve with ripe olives on bed of lettuce.

And, of course, lots of love. My mom always did.

It’s a sisterfest!

the-mapes-girlsAs some of you may already know, I come from a family of five girls — and no boys.  Oddly enough, four of the “Mapes girls” (as we were known back in the day) ended up in the news today.

In birth order, my big sister Mary wrote a funny essay for Huffington Post on evolution vs. the Texas Board of Education, an esteemed group “‘where half of the people … have made it clear they don’t believe in the far-fetched idea of fish turning into frogs, dinosaurs turning into birds, or monkeys turning into Rush Limbaugh fans.”

I was interviewed by for a story about recession dating and how high credit scores are now the “hot car” of the dating scene (I’m not convinced). My little sister Frances, who runs an estate sale business called Eartha Kitty’s, was featured in a story in the Bellingham Herald about how people are using estate sales as a way to downsize (and make a little extra dough). And finally, Peggy (the so-called “baby” of the family), was written up on the crafting blog, Prairie Tales,  for her fabulous button pillows (you can find more of her hand-crafted work on Etsy at Letter Perfect Designs).

Just thought it was a funny coincidence that so many of us were swirling around the Interwebs today. I’ll keep you posted if/when our sister Gloria makes any headlines.

What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

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March 2023