Posts tagged love

How Fortunate Were We….

Aunt Fay

 

I have always taken inspiration from the women in my life.

 

From when I was a very young child, I always noted how people interacted with each other.  I knew what my mom meant and she didn’t have to say much, to me, my father or anyone else in the family.  My aunts conveyed love in different ways – one did it with brownies, the other, with challenges to me, her children, and my cousins.

I had cousins who were very influential and more relatives in an extended family who led without ever letting anyone know that they were being led.  Women who did what was expected, did a bit covertly to get what was needed for the sitjation, some who achieved just by believing in the power of support.

This past week, for me, was the end of an era.  I had said goodbye to my mother’s sister, my uncle’s wife.  And although I still have the gift of many of my mother’s friends from younger years (some from her childhood), on Sunday, we lost the last of my wife’s aunts.

So why are you writing this post, you ask….

I write this post, along with the others I have written here for my Aunt Flo, Mother Theresa, and my own mother.  I write this post with the title “How fortunate were we” because her name reflected that – Fortunata; we all called Fay, Aunt Fay, even Uncle Fay (my brother-in-law’s pet name for her).

A long and winding history with Aunt Fay and her family, I had known her for at least the last thirty years of my life.  She went from being my friend’s aunt to a welcoming hostess, to a business advisor and confidante, to one of the best friends a person could have.  And although we were quite different in age, I looked to Aunt Fay because she embodied so much of what women of her generation were never supposed to achieve.

She was the second child of three, born to immigrant parents in Brooklyn.  She lived through The Great  Depression, World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, 9/11, and plenty of global issues, good and bad; technology, transportation, and communication innovations along with the change empowerment, education, and expectations for everyone.  She wanted to go to college and did, with her parents’ blessings and encouragement.  She changed majors and found a life-long love for numbers and business.

She was Valedictorian for her graduating class; she earned her CPA license in 1961, which she held until a few years ago.  She served on the Board of Directors of a prominent hospital and volunteered at many school functions.  Along with her husband, she ran one of the most successful dealerships in the Northeast for decades. A mother to five children, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of two.

Her faith was always one of the most prominent things in her life.  She drove to Mass every day until a few years ago.  She took great joy in celebrating with her family, her extended family and was always ready to reminisce about the “good ol’ days”.

But here’s why I have to write about Fortunata, Aunt Fay…

She welcomed me into her family from day one.  She didn’t question why she simply said “Grab a plate and help yourself!”  And as our friendship grew over the years, Aunt Fay would sit with me for hours and talk about my business, her business, and where things were headed in the world of business.  We usually had our conversations over a nice glass of wine or a long after-dinner drink.  We often went for dinner with our “Gang” – Age, Mother Theresa, Rae, Grandma – and although our group got smaller as the years went by, we always raised a glass to toast the ones who were no longer with us.

Welcoming was one thing Aunt Fay did so well.  The other, for me, was supporting.  She supported me like my own mother.  She always had words of encouragement for me.  When I graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, she came to the ceremony and told me that she was so proud of me and my accomplishment.  We spoke the language of business, the language of women who were ofttimes marginalized, and understood how important it was to have a sounding board, a mentor.

So here’s to my friend, my “drinking buddy”, my Aunt Fay.  She was the last of a long line of characters in my wife’s family whom I can say I had the honor of meeting, the pleasure of knowing and the gratefulness of their friendship. When I saw her for what would be the last time a few days before she passed, I said to her “Aunt Fay, we have to go for a drink soon, right?”, she perked up, smiled and said “Absolutely!”

Cheers to my friend who brought me nothing but Buona Fortuna in knowing her.

Happy Mother’s Day… from six feet away!!!

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Mother’s Day usually led to a conversation I had with my mom almost every year. The language of adoption. Some famous person who had adopted a child would pass away and the reporter would usually state something like “Her children, John and Mary and her adopted son, Fred” and my mom and I would be unnerved that there would be a differentiation made.

In 1965, a young woman, no more than 19 years old, gave birth to me. I do not know the circumstances surrounding her decision to give me up for adoption but that was to be part of my story. Adoption and acceptance have always been important to me. My parents always told me I was special and I knew from the very beginning that I was adopted.
But that is where it stayed. It was part of my story that differentiated me from friends, classmates and even cousins. A closed adoption made final in 1967, my parents were Mary and Ernie Parmel – my parents. No “adoptive” – I was not referred to as “adopted”. And to the days after my parents both left this earth, I was their daughter.

Laws may change, new information may be garnered, even sealed records can be opened. That doesn’t change the fact that my mom raised me to be the person I am today – as her own. A friend who was also adopted once said to me that we didn’t grow under their heart but in it.

One thing I know for sure, my mom (and dad too!) is up there watching out for me, shaking her head at the crazy things I get myself involved in, wringing her hands with the things I do that she would have told me not to. On Mother’s Day, I realize that she was right 99.9% of the time, she worried about me more than she needed to, and I know that “paper is thicker than blood”, a phrase we laughed at.

And one more thing on this Mother’s Day…
Mostly all the people in my life, over all these years have told me that today we celebrate women who are mothers, who wish to be mothers, women who have lost children, who have chosen not to have children and those who did not have the gift of their own children in their lives. Faces, names, known or unknown, women that have given up a gift of a child, conceived in any circumstance should also be celebrated for their ultimate sacrifice – so that someone may have a better life – the child and the family they are given to. I thank the woman who gave me life – I hope that one day, I can thank her in person.

But I have come across a few people that believe that if you do not have children or if you are not their mother, they shouldn’t wish you a Happy Mother’s Day; those people choosing to walk past someone while acknowledging another just steps ahead or behind them. Just stop and think sometimes if you are guilty of marginalizing someone like that – you don’t know how deep the hurt you cause can go. May those who do that never find themselves in the same position – or maybe it would give them pause for thought. After all, some of the deepest hurts are caused by three little words not being said. It is always three little words, right?
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!

And I mean EVERYONE!!

The Angelou Effect

 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  – Maya Angelou

 

I am in a very unique position.

Well, that sounded cool to say but it’s not really true.  I am in the same position that many of us find ourselves at different points in our lives, within different circumstances and locations.  People say things like they are sorry when someone passes away, happy for your when you win the lottery (I know that one most would consider to be a stretch) and more things like that.  Someone can offer you a ride, pick-up a quart of milk for you at the store or just ask you how you’re doing on any particular day.

I bumped into my neighbor the other day and she looked tired.  We stopped and had some conversation; she told me her mom who had been very ill had finally passed earlier in the week.  She has been through a lot, my neighbor – she broke her shoulder in an accident at work; her husband died suddenly two years ago; her mother has been ill and in and out of hospitals for the last year.  And in the midst of all things with getting her mom’s affairs in order, she had to run home and walk the dogs.  When I saw how tired she was, I told her that if she wanted to leave me the keys, I would walk the dogs so she wouldn’t have another thing to worry about.  I know how independent my neighbor is and I knew my offer would most likely be refused, but I did it anyway.  I didn’t ask because it was “the thing that neighbors do” – I did it because I really hoped she would let someone help her for once!  But even more, if she didn’t take me up on the offer, I thought maybe she would feel better, knowing that if she truly wanted to, I would be there to help her.  I know she appreciated it as she smiled as she went into her door and thanked me.

That being said, I stumbled upon this quote from Maya Angelou and it made me think: Do we truly think about our words and actions and their effects?

Quantifying a feeling is almost impossible.  One can say that they are feeling things at a certain level but that level would be relative to the rest of the things going on in their lives.  Often, two people in a situation can’t understand why the other doesn’t “get it” – perhaps it’s because the first party doesn’t consider how the other person is made to feel.

I am surrounded by a lot of people every day – through business, family, friends and others.  Communication has always been important in my life whether it has involved talking around the dinner table, writing letters to cousins who lived far away; talking daily on the phone to a grandparent who did not live with us, writing in a diary.  You can communicate all you want to whatever entity you choose but a true communicator watches for the signals, takes the cues remembering that words “listen” and “silent” have the same letters in them.  Being present in a conversation means you have to hear what’s being said and then pause…

Then think about your retort, your side, the words you wish to say.

No one realizes how damaging words like “just” and “kind of” can be when you speak to someone.  I’ve heard one phrase over and over again throughout my life – “not really”, as in “that child was adopted so he (she) is ‘not really’ their child” or “Well, he’s not really her father – its a second marriage”.  All are limiting words – they minimize situations, people and things.  And for what point?  If you use phrases like this, do you live the life of the person you are speaking about?

 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

Guess that can translate to “Think before you speak – the tongue is a very sharp instrument.”

 

 

What a Year It’s Been

I’m baaaaacckkkk!!!

Okay – I know the difference between a bad blogger, a good blogger and a great blogger is the frequency with which they post.

I am admitting – I have been a bad blogger.

I have not concentrated on writing – I have let ever single thing in my life distract me from the purpose of this blog. The very focus of this blog was to acknowledge the ironic twist one’s imagination can lead their thought process and life to. 2015 has been one of those years that has proven to expand my imagination; make me question the past, enjoy the present and be excited about the future, even as I hit the milestone 50th birthday!

The last post I made was about “The Meatball Experience”. We had a fun day with food, great company and wine!! My mom imparting her skewed side of the world and her meatballs, my cousins easing nicely into our old comfort zone (or maybe new comfort zone as we have rarely been able to spend time together as adults). That day was shortly after one of my posts “Oy Vey! Only Two Years Away”.

Well, the blink of an eye has happened and here we are two years later. I am on a flight to Miami marking my three trip down to the Sunshine State this year. I have been working with a business coach,one who is helping me figure out what I want to be when I grow up (ha-ha!) – someone who has made me look at the things that I have done throughout my fifty years on this earth and realize that I can work with others to bring about change in their businesses and help them create events, strengthening their personal brands.

I have tried to leave my pessimistic self at the door. My mantra hasn’t changed much but I don’t think it’s “I hate people” it’s more “I hate stupidity”!

I am continually happy that God gives me another day. Another day to appreciate things, people, circumstances, whatever. I can no longer pat my puppy on the top of his head; my Bailey plays with his Grandpa again since he crossed over that Rainbow Bridge in May. The news still stinks everyday – watching it becomes a trial in keeping panic attacks in check.
Then the day happens. Thankfully, the day happens.

My mom is now being well taken care of after she broke bones in her back in June of 2014; she made a decision to permanently reside in a facility in her Astoria neighborhood. We packed up, cleaned out and sold a home that had been in my family for 64 years. The uncle who had meant the world to me as a child passed away and letting go of angst that had come between us seemed the right thing to do. After a twenty-two year run, my partner and I have decided to close our businesses down – as I have always said, it’s fun when things are going right but when things go wrong, boy do they ever! Superstorm/Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy knocked the wind out of our sails and we never really recuperated fully. One of my childhood heroes, my cousin, Theresa, suffered from the ravages of ovarian cancer and succumbed to this terrible disease within months.

Amazing things have happened also.

I applied and was accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program in July of 2014. I met the best group of “Cohortians” (as I called them) and benefitted from many of their experiences, our instructors and our business advisors. Graduation in December 2014 gave me a new perspective on business, my direction and what I needed to do moving forward. I received a Certificate of Entrepreneurship from LaGuardia Community College and Goldman Sachs and also completed a business college course of study giving me a Certificate in Management Consulting. Opportunities presenting themselves in the strangest places (or right in front of you); I am a “Lord-Mechanic-Accumulator” and am embracing my strengths and running with them.

I am creating a new business opportunity for myself and will be helping other small business owners steady their foundations and move forward to build their businesses and brands.

My partner and I bought a beautiful home in a wonderful neighborhood and are looking forward to welcoming family and friends for wonderful dinners and backyard pool parties for years to come. We can finally have our moms come to a house that is more easily accessible for them and we can’t wait to see what the next fifty years have in store. I have closer friends, more relaxed days, more ever expanding experiences. I’ve become a “Networker” (VP now President of our BNI Chapter), I’ve become a consultant and, not to be forgotten, “The Third Twin” (blog post with an explanation to follow later).

But taking stock of things, as my birthday gets closer, I have to be grateful for many things. Although I make many a joke about being placed in a reed basket and floated down the Nile (or East River), I am the person I am today – slightly cracked, a wealth of useless information, a business owner, someone you can ask for anything, supporter of many (whether they realize it or not), critical of some but one who knows when they are out of their league. I believe in open-mindedness. I believe in education. Flowers winning over guns; candles to remember those lost; feeling safe again when everyone in the world remembers we are all the same. Love can and does conquer all.

This year, I am thinking definitely and positively. And instead of “Let’s see where this will take me”, how about this…

“Don’t believe me? Just watch!!!”

The Meatball Experience

…or more aptly titled, “The Day of 1,000 Meatballs”!

The best day ever!

Home cooked meatballs with family!

 

Those of you that follow this blog know that my Aunt Flo passed away in May 2013. We celebrated my Aunt’s life, remembering her with stories and jokes and reminiscing of all of our collective memories of and with her. A lit of wine and tears but it was a true celebration.

At that time, my cousin Colleen asked my mother if she would teach her how to make her mother’s meatballs – my Aunt Flo and my mom had a few recipes in their repertoires – their meatballs being a shared one. My mom agreed and we planned to schedule the “Meatball Fest”.

This past Saturday, we drove to my cousins’ home down the Jersey shore with all the Brooklyn fixings for a pasta and meatball (sauce included) feast; picked my mom up on the way.

It was one of the best days ever!

My mom was throwing her “weight” around, telling my cousins and me what to do.  Jokes flying back and forth – “You haven’t cooked in fifteen years, how are you going to tell us how to make meatballs?”  John made sure my mom had a “cold beer” at her fingertips, staying cold in a wine chiller as she gave us direction and sampled the fixings.  “Not enough of this…”, “Too much garlic”, “Cook them longer” – she was full of them!  We stood around mixing the ingredients, rolling the meatballs they way our mothers and grandmother had, the “men folk” hung around, waiting for something to eat.  “I knew I needed something… oh yeah, more wine” was heard throughout the day.

The neat thing was this…

We spent time as we had when things were simpler, less busy and more fun.  My family always knew how to do things with great “heart”.  When we laughed, we laughed heartily.  When we fought, we fought the good fight.  But we could always come together and enjoy each other’s company.  And we could have fun like no one else.

My mom said many times during the course of the day, “It’s not easy”.  She is usually referring to putting up with me teasing her or telling her to “be nice”.  All in good fun but she likes to tell people that it isn’t easy for the sake of conversation.  It was easy this Saturday family get-together; albeit some of our missing family members, my dad and Colleen & Pat’s mom, but we knew they were there.  My cousin spoke of a trip to Italy and waiting for a sign from her mom to let her know that it was all right for her to be where she was and to enjoy herself. – her husband pointed out a street sign that gave direction to another town they were near. “Guadagno”, which was our grandmother’s maiden name – sign enough for all of us.

I don’t know if anyone else saw the same sign I did but as I sat at the dinner table for a bowl of pasta with a few meatballs, I thought of how simple things would be if everyone just took a day, did something they never did before with people they haven’t spent enough time with in forever.  You begin to see each other in a different light – with everything else stripped away, just a good old time, wine and meatballs for all!

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