Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas wish for you

As I read through my past blogs, I see a theme, a thread of survival. These thoughts are one of optimism, gratitude, of going on despite what is swirling around me.

I take heart knowing that in the midst of Cancer, chemo, radiation and operation, I still manage to get myself back to a place where I can look around and be grateful for all that is in my life.
I can look on the positive, I can see the sun despite the clouds, I can see a rainbow when there is pouring rain.

These past few weeks I thought it would just take me longer than before, after all~ it is piling up, although I don't like to lump problems or issues into one big pile. I like to think that each is separate, each different, that the world is not crashing down around me.

The loss of my father hit me hard, immediately and profoundly.

I know he was 85, I know he was slowing down considerably, I know when I brought him to his doctor visits, he had some minor issues that we could not get a hold of, I know he was tired, I could see it in his face.
I know he lived a good, happy full life, I know he died peacefully.

These things I know but they do not erase the longing or the missing him. Nothing prepares you for losing a parent. Someone said it so right, you just want them here~all the time no matter what.
Grief is personnel, I am finding out, some scream and cry, some mourn silently, others stay busy keep the demons at bay.
I am choosing to remember, to go through pictures, to talk to family in Italy who respected him so much. I talk to my Dad daily, I blow kisses to his pictures hanging around my home, pictures of him as a 18 year old young man, not yet in this country, standing besides a borrowed bicycle, of him on his wedding day, so handsome, eyes alight with joy, of him with his brothers, all four, he was the oldest and last to pass. I find comfort in this, in keeping him alive in my heart and in my memories.

Some say I will dream of him and I think I did last night but this morning there was just a presence, not anything that I remembered. It is OK. I know he is here with me, for me, guiding me along the way.

So we go through this Christmas with heavy hearts, knowing full well that here on Christmas Eve there will be an empty spot at the table and an empty spot in our hearts.

I do have grand kids, so Christmas will go on and that is a good thing. They somehow make you forget everything and concentrate on the moment.

So in this moment my Christmas wish to you is a Blessed, Happy, Healthy, Loving Christmas, filled with family and those who are dear to you. Give thanks for what you have, it is more than enough.

Take a look around you, forget the presents, and the pile of gifts. It is the people in your life that makes everything worthwhile. Each and every moment is special with those you love. Whether they are here or not.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the Midst of Heart Ache

This is so much harder than I thought possible.

These past few days have been filled with a listlessness, a sad countenance, a sad heart.

I see my Dad in every corner of the house.
I sit in my office and look at his pictures, the cross that was on his casket, the wallet that he carried everywhere, the belt he always wore. My office is filled with bits and pieces of him, tucked on every shelf, propped against the wall, filling my home with his memories.

Through the busy~ness of this season, I cry unexpectedly, I feel lethargic, I have no appetite.
I didn't expect this, couldn't predict this grief, this missing him, his presence and wit, his smiling face and wisdom. Nothing prepares you for this void.

I try to think he is here with me, his memories will keep me warm and safe but at the dinner table the other night, as we celebrated my son Dominick birthday, there was a void, an emptiness. It was all I could do to bear it, I was near tears the whole time, watching my mom get her plate and sit next to an empty chair, she always prepared a plate for my dad first.  We all tried to get through that dinner without breaking down, and to tell you the truth I couldn't wait for everyone to leave, so I could cry in the solitude of my room.

After all the preparations for the funeral are over, as we continue our life, that is when it hits, he is not coming back, he is not here any more, I can't ask him a question about Italy, ask his advice on business, joke with him, talk to him, he is not here.

This is what grief is all about, the mourning, the sadness, the realization that someone is passed from your life, ready or not, they are gone.

The holiday will be hard, we are all trying to keep my mom busy, through our own grief and tears.
The past few days I felt I could not get out of bed, I didn't want to, I found a great fatigue washing over me, making me listless and lethargic, no ambition, no energy, no emotions other than sorrow.

I woke up today, this early morning and tried to get my head on straight, to tell myself that I can do this, I can move forward, through the pain, through the missing him, through the sorrow.
I tried to tell myself he is here, with me always, the memories, are here, he is watching over me.
This is what will get me through.

One day at a time, one moment at a time. I am blessed to have him as a father, I am blessed by so much in my life.

I can do this, a little at a time.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Amidst the busy~ness of these past few weeks, preparing for my Dad's funeral, meeting the obligations of holiday parties, teaching cooking classes and trying to keep my head on straight, I have been dutiful in scheduling my PT/CT scan and MRI, making and keeping doctors appointments.

My liver surgery was November 3rd, it took almost a month for me to get my energy back and start to feel like myself again. All the while knowing I would have to take these tests and find out what just exactly was left inside my body, what is growing and what is shrinking.

This is a stressful time as you can imagine but dealing with so much else put it in the background of my mind. I thought to myself "It is what it is" no use worrying, no use fretting, I will handle what comes my way, with strength and grace and the guidance of Pop up in heaven.
I have a feeling now of being watched over, knowing that it will be all right~no matter what it is.

We traveled down to Jeff to see the oncologist first, my favorite of all my doctors. His calm and reassuring demeanor is comforting to me. He doesn't stir up fear and anxiety, I feel trust and a knowledge that we can take care of anything that comes my way. He knows me, what I do for my living, how important family and cooking and work is to me, he takes these into consideration when making decisions on my health.

It seems and this was confirmed by the surgeon as well that, I "Burn Well" which means that where they went in to microwave the tumor the spot is clear and clean. There remains a ring of suspicious "Lighting up" around that lesion still, along with that are other spots, some new, some there from the last scan.
There is a "new"spot on the other side of my liver now that has to be addressed.
I swear I must have mushroom soil in my liver, these damn things are prolific! (maybe weed killer would work!)

I took this all as good news, really.

The Cancer did not spread to another organ, it is staying in the liver. I can deal with that. The liver regenerates. OK, if I have to have this, just stay in the liver, we will take this on~ one spot at a time.
They are suggesting implanting radio active seeds to shut off the blood supply to that area. Along with that maybe more "burns" to get rid of those other spots.

They have a plan, the doctors are calm and confident. Two very important traits you want in a doctor.
Believe it or not I am optimistic, I feel strong again and I feel I can take this on.

They don't want to do anything for at least 6 to 8 weeks so I have a bit of a vacation from doctors and Cancer until after the holidays, thank goodness!

So while I really wanted to hear" it's all gone"this news is OK too.

One day at a time, one step at a time, one spot at a time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


This word has been rolling around in my mind for a few days now.

In these past two weeks, each day has been full.
Full of tears and full of remembrances, full of love and full with the support of family and friends.
I find myself enveloped in the embrace of love and gratitude.

I wake up thinking how very lucky I am. To have grown up in the circle of my loving and caring and yes, funny family.
To share so many happy times and memories. To now be surrounded by such love and support. I am lucky, I am blessed.

I feel the connections with others. This is what life is all about.
Not possessions, or the biggest house, best car, not things but people. That is what makes my life so magical. The connections I have with others.

The hugs I get. Oh, the hugs! When someone hugs me it is like being embraced with an Aura of love. It breaths strength into my body, it allows me to know I am not alone.
So many hugs these past days, big hugs, strong hugs, loving hugs. I am so grateful for the embrace of so many people.

This is what life is about, the people in your life, the connections, the threads that bind us together. The relationships, both life long and passing.

My life is filed with the richness of friendship and family. As I look around and go through my day, I feel blessed in so many ways. My Dad had a saying "Bread on the Water". What you give comes back to you.
I am living that saying now. The connections I made with everyone during my life have come full circle. I feel the love and the warmth surrounding me at each turn. I am lifted up, I am consoled, I am supported and loved and I am thankful. I see kindness and sweetness in the faces of my clients, my friends, this wonderful outpouring of support.

This holiday season is hectic but stop and take the time to look at the faces of people you meet. It is the people who are important, not the things. Make a connection, give someone a smile, practice random acts of kindness and you will feel blessed.
Giving is not about shopping, a kind word, a good deed, a helpful hand, an embrace, a thoughtful gesture, that is what giving is all about. Your love and kindness to others will come back to you tenfold.

Bread on the water.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A tribute to my Mom

             November 13, 2011 my birthday dinner, my family together

Yesterday was a day filled with tears and smiles as we celebrated my Dad's life.

It was a day filled with both sadness and gratitude.

As I stood in the church next to my Mom, friends, family and neighbors from a life lived well filed by.
My Dad knew a lot of people. His barber shop has been around for 50 years. He was a star in the Tanning business with his unusual and fun ads in the local papers. Many people came to share their thoughts and express their regrets.

In the past few days my daughter, Tina, went through all the family pictures putting together 10 posters of memories. It was both difficult and wonderful she said, to spend time with grand pop through the years of pictures. She did a wonderful job, capturing his exuberance and zest for life.

My son, Dominick wrote his Eulogy. Standing up in church among family and friends, telling the story of my father's life and the effect his actions and deeds had on us. It was a wonderful tribute to a life well lived.

Each remembering my Dad in their own way. I realized that this is what life is all about. To be surrounded by people you love, to share the daily joys and sorrows. To celebrate all the good in life.

As I stood by my mom's side, this diminutive tiny lady, who made her life with a stranger, really.
She loved and supported him in every endeavor. She took loving care of him until the very end.
She cooked a wonderful meal for him every single day, even when his interest in food and eating became less, there was a wonderful meal at lunch time, table set with a table cloth, basket of bread, glass of wine, a meal prepared with love.
She sang to him every morning at breakfast, she made sure all his cloths matched, she loved him to the very end.

As we made arrangements for his funeral, she stood strong, with tears in her eyes as she picked out his suit, chose a beautiful prayer for the Holy card. Ordered lush deep red velvet roses for the flowers surrounding him in church.
Every last detail taken care of with love and strength.
My father was lucky and he knew that.

My Mom told me that on Thanksgiving Day night, after they left my house, as he was going up to bed for the last time, he turned to her and said "Ma, you take too good care of me"
He called her Ma, her called her Mother Goose, he spoke to her with love and respect all his life.
They had a wonderful, caring, special relationship.

As I looked down on my tiny mom, she is only 4 foot 8, I saw a strong women, a women I love and respect, a women I learned so much from.

I talked to her last night as we went over the events of the day.
"Mom, you should be proud, you took such good care of Pop, up until the very end."

As the service came to an end and we said our last goodbyes, my mom put her hand on my Dad and told him she loved him and that he left her too soon, with tears in our eyes we said our last goodbyes.

This is a tribute to my Mother, a strong, smart, fun women, a perfect partner to my Dad.

I love you Mom and I know Pop did too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Dad

This is the last picture, the last time we saw him, on Thanksgiving, in my kitchen, going home, hands always behind his back, always.

Words, thoughts, experiences, rolling around in my head every waking moment.

Writing for me has always been a sort of release, an outlet to the thoughts that swirl in my heart.
This is hard, harder than I've ever thought possible.
I want to honor my Dad, remember him, bless him, thank him. I want to write about him, tell his story.

It is too fresh, too close, too near to losing him. The words are there but not in complete sentences or thoughts.

" May you live every day of your life. "

I just read this and immediately thought of my Dad.

He lived every single day, with joy, with enthusiasm, with laughter, with purpose, with a kind, loving, giving spirit.
He taught me so much about life and people and goals, about kindness and how to treat others. He was a giving person, always sharing, always present, always there. His story is one I know in my heart. It is one of courage and strength and determination.

He faced all odds yet came out on top, smiling.

Born in 1926, two month premature in a tiny village in Abruzzi Italy, he was born in a farmhouse with no heat or running water, in January, on a cold blustery winter day. His grandfather Sabatino raced down the mountainside to get a priest to bless this little baby not expected to make it through the night.

My father was a fighter from day one.

He made many connections in Italy, these connections still exists today.
Relatives, friends, neighbors call to express sorrow yet share stories of how kind and strong he was.
They tell me my Father was an example of a man with an adventurous spirit, someone they still look up to today.

His dream was to come to the United States.
I asked him once when he had that dream, he told me always.
He made that dream come true.
In 1953 he came to this country after working in the steel mills in France for three years to save for his passage.
He came to New York, not knowing the language, he came to this country with determination, and a dream. He married my mom in an arranged marriage. They will be married 58 years on January 31st 2012.

He came here with a sense of adventure, a determination, a sense of humor, a strong work ethic, a gentleness to treat everyone, no matter who they were with respect.
He always always gave more than he had. To the church, to the homeless on Race street when we would go to Chinatown. He would eat Chinese food but was always looking for the bread! A true Italian!
He shared his wealth of barbering by becoming a teacher and taught all of us, his four kids how to cut hair. We all worked in his barber shop, we worked as a family, came home and had dinner as a family.

He did this by taking us to "old age homes" a term we used in the 70's. We went with our scissors and straight razors and gave haircuts to everyone on Sunday mornings. We made rosaries by the dozens and he sent them to poor countries. He went to church everyday of his life until the onset of Alzheimer's made him slower and more fragile.
He had a ready smile, always, no matter what.

He patted my mom on the backside up until the very end. His love for her was timeless.

I am remembering his life, in the early morning hours, at night time as I try to fall asleep with tears in my eyes. I am remembering his goodness, his wit, his sayings, his stories.

I will keep him with me always.

I can describe my Dad in so many ways. He was a special man. A true and good soul, a gentleman, a scholar, an inventor, he invented the flat top comb in the 50's and became Flattop champion in Hairstyling shows in New York.

We traveled together, going to Italy.
One year Clint and I and my mom and Dad went to Abruzzi and visited the old farmhouse where he was born, we drove through the countryside and visited all his childhood friends and family.
They didn't know we were coming and I still remember the shouts of joy as they saw my Father approaching. One man threw his hat in the air and put his arms around my father in unadulterated delight to see him again.
All made feasts and invited everyone, we ate like kings, each family and friend trying to out do the other and show Armando how much they loved and missed him. I saw respect and love in their faces as they talked to my Father, I realized how much he meant to so many people.

I may be rambling but these thoughts are swirling around in my head, big tears are falling upon this story.
My dad lived his life with grace, with love, with respect, with kindness, with a yearning for knowledge and a sense of humor, a big smile and a big heart.

We are all close, my family is close, I saw my Mom and Dad almost everyday. They live a half a block from me. I am lucky, I am blessed to have him, to know him, to learn from him, to be in his presence.
We are all mourning, each of us. Tomorrow is his funeral. We will honor him and remember him and know that he is always there for us, no matter what. I will miss talking to him, asking his advice, laughing with him, I will miss his sparkle, his exuberance, his zest for life.

I love you Pop. You did live every day of your life.
You left us in a gentle way, with grace and dignity and we will miss you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I have so much to be thankful for this year.

I am surrounded by sweet, wonderful family, friends and clients.

I can immerse myself in the joys of preparing a meal with love and intent.

I can look out my window and see the beauty of nature.
I can curl up in my soft, comfortable bed.

I can step into my shower and let hot water cascade down my body.

I can realize that each day, each minute actually is a gift to be treasured and appreciated.

I can look in the mirror and see my hair coming back.

I am aware of my body and know that it is healing itself, after chemo and radiation, after more chemo and after a liver operation.

I am grateful for smart, strong compassionate doctors.

I am grateful for my strong, resilient, courageous soul.

I am thankful for my sense of humor, my laughter and a big smile through it all.

I am grateful for my grand children, they bring me joy and innocence, and a sense that life goes on.

I am grateful for a loving, kind, caring, supportive husband, standing by me each and every second.

I am thankful for my parents, they show me the way each and every day.

I am blessed by my children, the wonderful parents they have become, adults, families of their own, all big and grown up, in the blink of an eye.

I am grateful for my son in law and daughter in law, they complete the circle of love in my family.

I am thankful to have loving and supportive family in Italy, many miles away but near to my heart.

I have so very much to be thankful for, not just today but every day of my life.

I am blessed, truly blessed.

I send white light, love, support, blessings to everyone today and every day.

As I love to say "GRAZIE"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I have been using this word a lot lately.

In my early morning writings, in my notes of thanks for small and unexpected gifts, in my thoughts on life and what I have, for all the love and support I feel from so many people in my life. For my family, for my clients who have become friends with me through this journey.

I appreciate so much in my life.

When you are feeling blue or down and out, sometimes it is hard to realize what gifts your life holds on a daily basis.

Each morning as I write I realize just how blessed I am. I have so much love and support and sweetness around me, from the cards and notes to flowers and unexpected acts of kindness I am surrounded by love. Each and everyone following this journey with me help me to be strong and know it is OK. I appreciate life, I appreciate the support and love, I appreciate what I have and the strength I have in handling it all.

Appreciation, a big step in getting better. Appreciation, a way to reconcile the good with the bad, appreciation, allowing me to know that I am not alone, that I will bounce back, that I will be OK, that I have love and support surrounding me, prayers coming my way, encouragement surrounding me.

I appreciate it all.

Each and every morning I say a prayer of thanks for this day, this new beginning, this fresh start to get stronger, to feel better, to know I am on the mend.

Appreciate what you have, look at your life and see how you are blessed, concentrate on the goodness surrounding you each and every day, the miracle of life and Friends and family. The strength that laughter can bring.

This Thanksgiving is a perfect time to take a minute and give thanks for all the little things that you have in your life, daily gifts that we sometimes don't acknowledge.
Each day is a gift and each connection we have with a person is a tiny miracle. I am blessed, I am lucky, and I appreciate my life and all who are part of it.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

It isn't about the best and most delicious dinner, it is about the people we share the table with.

Be blessed!
Love to you and everyone in your life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

feeling blue

My feelings mirror this day~ dreary, sad and wet.

What I am going through is so much more than just Cancer. It affects me not only physically but mentally, financially, emotionally, right down into my soul. There are fears and lots of tears. I feel I am recovering slowly from this operation, whether it be from the anesthesia or the drugs or the trauma that my body went through, I am not sure. I just know I am not myself. It is hard to heal physically when the emotional side is down in the dumps.

This rainy day is perfect for spending in bed but it hurts to lay down so I am here at my computer working and writing. Trying to pick myself up and dust myself off and start all over again.

I was writing this morning and a phrase that I was using before this operation came to mind. The Doctor said to me before we went into the operating room "see you on the other side".

I am thinking, will I get to the other side of this or am I still in it? I want to move forward, move ahead, move past this. I want to be on the other side. I want to be myself again. My happy, positive self.
Seems the mountain is high this time. My body is a package, not only the physical but the mental, the emotional all wrapped into one, each healing at a different pace.

I desperately want to put this behind me, I am still scheduled for the testing to see what they got and what they didn't, so it still seems like this is hanging over my head.
Clint, in trying to help me said, we only have now, we are in a holding pattern, nothing more to do right now, he is right. I need to listen to my heart and to my own words too. Just enjoy this moment in time. Take each day as a gift.

We are so lucky, we get a new fresh start every morning, every day, to make it better, to change, to rest, to heal. Each day is a gift.
I will be back to me, I know I will. I am a strong women, a tough cookie as Clint says. This will pass and it will be OK. I know it will.
I am surrounded by love and support and and I truly have so much in my life.

So I am concentrating on my blessings, which are many and getting better and being me again.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life's little lessons

I believe that every single thing we do, happen upon or go through each day happens for a reason. It is a lesson, is part of something bigger.

This past week and and half has been a tough time for me. I was blindsided. Not because I wasn't prepared but only because sometimes I think myself to be invincible, maybe that is not the right word but I went into this strong, healthy and happy and just expected to be bouncing around here in a few days time.

As I lay in my bed trying to get my mind around the fact that it was hard to laugh, though I didn't really feel like laughing but even taking a breath was difficult. I couldn't move easily, get in and out of bed, even staying in bed was hard. I thought to myself~"how can I make myself better? what can I do to speed this up, to make me feel normal again?"

The answer that came to me was to breath, deeply.

Your breath is a powerful force in your body that you can somewhat control. While I was in the recovery room right after the procedure I kept waking to a beeping sound. Now that seems funny because all you hear in the hospital is machines beeping for this or that, but every time this beeping happened a nurse would stick her head around the corner and tell me to breath. It seems that because of the pain my breath was shallow and this machine was a reminder to take a deep breath. I never thought in my whole life that I would need a machine to tell me to breath. I LOVE to breath!

When I came home there was no machine beeping to tell me to breath, so I decided to do it myself. I know the breathe heals, my friend Sarah always tells me to take a breath down to my toes. This was not easy. It was very painful. My rib cage was sore, all the organs on the right side of my body were inflamed by the microwave procedure, so taking a deep breath brought tears to my eyes.

As I lay there trying to breath healing light and energy into my body, I thought that the hardest and most painful thing I was doing~breathing, was the thing that was going to help me the most.

A light went off in my head. This is like life! some of the hardest experiences we go through in life, the most painful, the most challenging, are the experiences that help us to grow the most. That make us a better person, that prepare us for something down the road. A lesson, that once learned, will make another experience easier, another time in our life more seamless. Every single thing we do prepares us for another.
So here I am, making a conscious effort to breath deeply, each day getting a little better, a little easier and knowing I will be all right.
Don't take your breath for granted. Feel the breath enter your body and go all the way down to your toes, let it out slowly and know that it is your companion, in times of fear and stress, it will help you get through most anything life can serve up.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thrown for a loop, gone through the ringer, hit by a Mack truck

I can honestly say I didn't see this coming. The pain, the reaction from the pain medication, the inability to move, cough, breath.
I was optimistic. Maybe too much so. I went into this feeling good, feeling healthy, feeling energetic, thinking I was going to get out of bed and be myself in two days time.

NO, that didn't happen.

I am just now, one week later starting to feel human, starting to think that yes, I will get over this, be able to take a deep breath, walk steadily, cough even laugh without too much pain.
The Doctor told me it was painful, I had no idea.
I have to say that I knew where about in my body my liver was but now I know EXACTLY where it is and how it feels.

It feels like Sponge Bob Square Pants, every time I take a breath.

Full of holes and squishy, my whole right, side front and back is sore to the touch. My rib cage is sore. They went in through the rib cage, wiggling those needles through all my organs to get to my liver, the second biggest organ of the body.

Laparoscopic Microwave Ablation of Liver Mets reads the Short procedure discharge papers.
Yes, they sent me home that night a little after 8PM after several injections of Fentanyl, morphine and anti nausea drugs that did little to ease the pain.

My day started early with us leaving the house before 6:30AM or so. They were late, I was scheduled for a 9:45 operation. At 11:30 I was still in holding area number one along with about 40 other people. The nurse told Clint they typically do around 99 patients a day on that floor alone. No hand holding there.
When, after  IV's were place in both hands, I have a permanent port in my left shoulder so now I had three ways they can get the drugs in, I went into the operating room around noon or after.

I was really not too coherent until yesterday. I do remember pain, I do remember taking meds prescribed for the pain and believe it or not I remember having a cocktail with the Queen of England and getting Elizabeth Taylor a drink. So you can see where I was~in la la land.

The surgeon told us he thought the procedure went well, although they did not get all the cancer, nor did they even look at the other lesions I had on my liver. I have more tests scheduled in a few weeks to see what, if anything is left.
What they did was go into my right side, through my rib cage with long big needles that they heated to a high intensity and microwaved my liver.
Now those of you who know me and come to class know that I don't even own a microwave!!! I never ever cook with a microwave. I guess this was revenge of the Microwaves! Still have my sense of humor even though I can't laugh.

The Doctor told me before this operation, 5 days to recover, after this operation he told me 10 days recovery. I am getting better, I am off the pain medicine taking only Tylenol not because it hurts less but because I do not want the side effects from those pain meds. NO MORE PILLS! I woke up saying about 3 days ago.
This is the first day my fingers would work in conjunction with my brain, so it took me a while to post this blog.

Thank you for all your support and prayers, love and cards.

I am on the mend, and now I know exactly where my Liver is!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Feelin' the love

Like a ray of sunshine on my face, the coziness of a warm blanket, the beautiful brilliant colors of Autumn. Love is in the air.

I am feeling the love, prayers, thoughts, good wishes from everyone.

I am reveling in the hugs and kisses. The cards and notes.
The confidence in me and the reassurance.


Tomorrow we leave around 6:30 AM, I have to be at Jeff at 7:45 AM. Surgery is scheduled for 9:45AM. It should take about 3 hours or so.

I am doing OK. I am ready!!!!

Thank you for all the love and all the prayers.
See you on the other side of this!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Being Italian

When I sit in the quiet early morning and reflect on my life or my day or my feelings, I can sometimes feel melancholy wash over me. When this happens I turn my thoughts to all that I have in my life, who I am, who I've become over these past 57 years.

I am grateful for so many things in my life, very simple things, the smile and laughter of my grandchildren, a really good meal prepared simply in my kitchen with love and purpose, the people in my life, the ebb and flow of kindness and goodness that has come my way.

I am especially grateful for my heritage. I love being Italian, I love the fact that my Dad was born in the mountains of Abruzzi, Italy, he grew up poor but happy and optimistic, he didn't even own a bicycle, he had to borrow one if he went to the nearby towns. But he was happy, he tells me often that he spent his youth by his grandfather's side. There he leaned to treat people with respect, he learned to help out with the harvesting of grapes for wine of olives for oil. He took baskets of eggs on that borrowed bike into the village to sell. Once when he was biking down that hill, a little too fast to be carrying eggs, he felt himself falling, he told me he was smart enough to land on his back with the basket raised up towards the heavens so the eggs wouldn't break! He still remembers that story vividly and I think he was 9 years old.

I feel such a connection to Italy. When Clint and I travel there, no matter where we go I feel a familiarity to everything. I am home, I am among the people and culture I know in my heart. In the years of my childhood I heard that musical language everyday and saw the way that my family acted together at meals, at prayer, at leisure. We did everything together, everything. I spent my youth with my parents, near them, around them learning from them and enjoying life with them.

Our neighborhood was all Italian, therefore I thought everyone was Italian, and how lucky they all were.
I treasure my family history, my family abroad, each and every one of them. When I meet with my family in Italy they open their arms and hearts to me as if I didn't live 3000 miles away. They feed me and embrace me and love me and remember all the good times they experienced with my father.

I want to share my Italy with everyone and I do when I take people on my trips, when I teach an Italian cooking class, when I speak and tell stories of my parents arranged marriage and how my dad came here on a boat with nothing but his lunch, as my mother likes to say. My parents married only knowing each other for mere months, but they are good people and they did it and I had the most wonderful magical childhood growing Italian.

And for that I am grateful... every single day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What I miss

This morning as I am sitting here with the wind and rain and snow blowing outside my window, I am thinking of how things are so different now.

We have very little connection with people. We connect with automation. If there is a problem we call and do we get to speak to a person? no ~we have a voice, a disembodied voice giving us instruction, repeating words that have no meaning, press one for this, press two for that, to get connected to a real person I have to break out in a sweat!

This past weekend I had an experience to drive me to drink.

A few weeks ago I went to the ATM at my bank to withdrawal money, it was early in the morning before bank hours, I withdrew $400 and low and behold $287 came out. In between the 20's were fives and ones. I was shorted $113 dollars.

I came home and immediately called the bank, after jumping through a series of hoops, I was told it was not the banks' problem, call the debit card company, I called them and fumbled through more recordings, until they finally put in a claim. Yesterday I received notification the claim was denied, they said the correct amount came out of the ATM,~no it didn't. I called back again and was shuffled like a deck of cards on poker night around and around, when I finally got to talk to a person, after a long time of me saying "person please" into the phone to an automated voice, being transferred god knows where, trying, hoping just to get to speak to a person instead of a recoding.

I spent most of the afternoon going between bank and debt card company, nobody was taking responsibility for this mistake, each transferring me or sending me to yet another automated voice.
I realized this is just one incident, just one time, but we no longer have communication with a human being. I am all for modern technology but sometimes it goes too far.

Our life is full of automation, automatic bill pay, automatic help centers, automated direction, cell phones IPADS, people walking around and yes, God forbid driving ~looking down! on the cell phone and texting.
On another note, but really the same thing, we now have super stores~ supermarket and stores that carry everything from diapers to lamp shades to ground meat.
What happened to the family run businesses, the people we can interact with daily, where did they all go?
Life is full of press one press two.

That is one of the reasons I shop only at family businesses, I want to talk to the person cutting my meat, making my pasta, selling my vegetables. I want to have a conversation about the weather, about how to cook something, about how they are doing. I want human contact. I want to resolve my issues with someone who cares, not a robot voice that just transfers you to another robot voice.

Seek out the family run businesses, seek out people you can talk to, commiserated with, share a laugh, a story, a problem, people are all around us and everyone is on the phone paying attention to something other than what they are doing.

It is time to stop, stop and smell the roses, be in the present, be aware of who is around you. Know that we are all in this together, that we can help one another and that we need one another.

Growing up in a very Italian small neighborhood, I had the pleasure of shopping with my mother. Our stores were on the corner, around the block, up the hill. We had a few butchers, with meat hanging on hooks, pens outside with lambs at Easter time, turkeys at Thanksgiving, butchers who carved your meat, made your sausage, talked to you about preparation and care. We had corner grocery stores with fruits and vegetables so beautifully displayed they looked polished.We had the bread man, scents of freshly baked bread and pizza on a Friday night filling the neighborhoods. We had the chicken man, in a little row home filled with cages of live fowl chosen by you to be freshly butchered and ready for a Sunday roast. The women stopped and talked to each person, exchanging recipes, gossip, smiles, concern.
I miss the neighborhood stores. I miss the interaction with real live people. I miss making a phone call to resolve an issue and hearing a "Hello" at the other end.
Slow down, take your life a moment at a time, talk to people, ask questions, make eye contact, laugh with someone, share a story, an idea, a recipe, a smile.

We go around much too fast and life as we know it is passing us by.

Take some time to interact with people, your life will be richer for just that!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Can't help but have this emotional roller coaster wave of feelings washing through me.
Anxiety, fear, frustration, sadness, fear, did I mention fear? uncertainty, frazzled nerves, and yes fear.

It has been too long, too long to reflect, to think, to anticipate, to wonder and be afraid.

I am human after all, and even though I think I am strong, I may be strong, I still have these emotions~ that do not serve me, that do no good, I know all of that but they are still here, leaking out into my day, into my thoughts, my conscious and unconscious thoughts.

You would think that after all I have been through these past months I would be able to handle this with boxing gloves on. Getting into the ring with confidence. Facing this liver operation head on.
With bravado,with swagger, with confidence.

Maybe I will, once I get there but these days before are offering up a smorgasbord of feelings.

I went down to Jeff yesterday for my pre-op testing. Left the house around 11AM home by 6 PM. I was put in a room and signed in by a clerk, visited by a Physicians assistant who went through my whole medical history.
Next came the EKG lady, followed by a women pushing a cart with tubes for blood, it reminded me of the Dim Sum restaurant I go to with my mom, only she had tubes for blood not sticky rice and pork dumplings!
I also had a consultation with the Anesthesia doctor, followed by a chest X RAY. Everyone was thorough and efficient. Making this all real. I am on clear liquids the day before the operation and I will be doing a cleansing. I will be notified about the time and location the night before the operation. Not sure yet if he will scoop, burn or zap the tumors, he will know more once he opens me up, I am told. Not sure of the length of stay either. So there is still some uncertainty but I have heard from more than one person that my doctor is the "ONE"~ the best there is, someone even went so far to say that they would not have anyone else operate on them, that makes me happy. I have a more than good surgeon.

I am an optimistic person so I am expecting the best, the best recovery, the best outcome, the best results, the best looking scar!

I am healthy, I am energetic, I am lucky to be in such good hands and have so many people praying for me and thinking about me and sending me love~Thank you everyone!

This has been a roller coaster ride and I am now going up that big hill, click click click, ready for the big drop. Am I ready? ready as I ever will be!

Think of me and my liver on November 3rd!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Simple Things in Life

I find lately that I am enjoying the simpler things in life, the small things that make me feel good each and every day.

The situations or happenings that I really didn't pay too much attention to before now give me a satisfying pleasure and best of all they are free and happen to just about everyone:

~Doing a load of wash and finding money in the dryer or in a pair of pants or the bottom of your handbag, such a great surprise, even a few dollars makes me happy!

~Making the yellow light, now I don't mean racing to catch the light but driving along and getting through when you thought you wouldn't

~Fresh clean sheets, the absolute best feeling~ crisp and clean and cozy

~Sleeping in on a rainy day, I have a tendency to jump out of bed even when I don't have to get up but on a rainy day there is nothing better than pulling those covers up and just listening to the rain outside (on those clean sheets too!)

~Receiving a hand written letter or card in the mail, with email and text no one takes the time to write a note anymore, I love to get mail and it always makes me feel special

~Finding a parking spot, ever go into a crowded lot and think you will never find a spot~ well you are right, think the opposite, plan on finding a spot close by and it will magically appear!

~Laughing out loud, it just releases everything, all that pent up stress we carry around without even being aware of it, laugh freely and loudly, each and every day, it lifts your mood immensely!

~Pure silence, I get my dose in the early morning, quiet, dark and a promise of a new day.

~Sitting in the sun, find a spot where you can feel the sun on your skin, even in cold temperatures this feels heavenly, ever watch a cat, they find the tiniest sunny spot and camp out!

~Really good simple food~ there's nothing like it!

~Hearing a favorite song, music can change your mood, it lifts us up, brings us to a long forgotten memory, it can change your mood in a musical beat.

~Receiving a compliment, we often are embarrassed when someone pays us a compliment but just say thank you and enjoy it, it feels much better then poo pooing it away

These are just a few of the simple things in life that can change our mood, make our day and allow us to be in the moment. Take advantage of what is at your doorstep!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Celebration and Thank you

I know the year ended too quickly, in a way we didn't want, disappointment is hard to wish away. We are Philadelphia fans and we want to win, but I think it is important to go back and see just how much fun we had watching this baseball team. Cheering for Hunter Pence, watching Halladay, Cliff Lee, the hours of excitement, the fans, the cheers, the hot dogs.

This season was fun, even for me, who really is not a devoted sports fan. I know about the Phillies from my grandsons. I get an update daily, who pitched, how the runs were scored, what the standing were. I heard a blow by blow description of each and every game. I got into it, I started watching the games on TV, cheering for Chooch, yelling for the Flying Hawaiian, it was fun, it was exciting right down to the end.

To watch a game on TV and see a sea of red cheering fans, to feel the excitement, to hoot and holler along with everyone else was a real treat. These guys are good, they are fun to watch and it is a real experience to go to that beautiful stadium and watch a game. I have Phillies fever, and I still do despite the loss. I want to focus on the big picture instead, the games played week in and week out, the excitement and the competition was awesome.
So I am sharing pictures of a birthday party planned around the Phillies back in May. Christopher's 7th birthday~ his request~ a Phillies party, with Tina's creativity at work.
It was all things Phillies and I send out a big thank you to them for a great season, no matter what!