Posts tagged memory

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!

I Sound Like My Mother…

mom

Actually, I think I sound more like any of my grandparents!

I was raised in a three-generation home – the kind that the Amish are known for, but the rest of the immigrant population that settled in the Northeast at the turn of the last century chose, not because it was the best thing to do, but because necessity is the mother of invention (or at least, giving everyone a home).

My mother’s parents lived in the first floor apartment of the home my grandfather bought.  He immigrated from Bari, Italy and my grandmother from Naples.  They were set-in-their-ways Italian: family, work and food.  My father’s father died before I was born but I knew who he was from the stories everyone told.  He and my father’s mother emigrated from Gibraltar (yes, the Rock; “Gib” as we descendents call it).  They were set-in-their-ways Spanish/British/Gibraltarians: family, work and food.

Every one of them worked hard.  Mostly laborer-type jobs, nothing glamorous, just hard work.  Pop in a paper mill, Mom in household job like sewing and such; Poppa was a laborer at many different places and my Grams, she had one of the best jobs ever – she worked for Loft’s Candies, as a packager – I think of the “I Love Lucy” episode with the candy conveyor belt and the shouts of “Speed it up, Harry!” every time I think of her!  They all worked hard, rested when they could, enjoyed family and good food and were happy.  I don’t believe one of them ever set foot on a college campus, never mind take classes; some may have even gotten a high school diploma (or its equivalent).  But they knew so many, many things!  And it all seemed to just be knowledge they had – how to cook, how to take care of the house (inside for the women, outside for the men), how to build things, how to take them apart; painting, singing, joke telling and more.  No one ever wondered how he or she was going to make it in this world.

They all raised children who “enjoyed a better life than they did” as the saying goes.  Whether it was working for a big supermarket as a butcher (a job with great benefits and a steady paycheck), working as a “Bill of Lading” clerk in the garment district, a business manager for a township in New Jersey, a service manager for a refrigeration company or an employee of UNESCO – all of their children worked, knew what needed to be done and got the job done – providing for their families, acquiring homes and sending every one of their children to college – they knew what to do and got it done.

My first cousins and I all had the benefit of graduating from colleges and universities on the East Coast.  A CPA, three teachers, corporate middle management and two business owners in the lot.  We were taught from our grandparents and parents to be responsible, to pay attention, to learn, to work hard and make them proud.  We succeed, albeit with setbacks along the way, but our history taught us how to deal with those setbacks and push on.

Today, I spoke to one of the many “young-ens” that I have had the pleasure of employing over the last twenty years.  When I heard him say, “Basically, my generation is screwed”, I felt compelled to write this little post but felt a stronger urge to ask the readers out there a question or two.  I hope you will take the time to answer and give me some feedback – yes, I need to know your age but only for perspective and what you think.

So in a few words in the comments, let me know your “around-about” age, and answer these three questions:

1.  How does a person get one’s “character”?

2.  Do you think your generation has learned from the past?

3.  Do you agree with twenty-somethings today being on the short end of the stick?  And in what areas, exactly?

4.  Any suggestions on a possible “fix”?

I appreciate the time you may decide to take – I’ll let you know in follow up posts where everyone stands!!

Oy vey – Only Two Years Away!

It's that time of the year!!

It’s that time of the year!!

 

Today is my 48th birthday. So far, it’s a good day!

And being my usual pessimistic self, I’m sure it won’t stay that way.

You know those e-cards everyone posts on Facebook? There’s one I find particularly funny and way too true – “I try to like people, but then idiots happen!”.

Why is that??

I wake up everyday but especially on a day like my birthday and really am happy that God gave me another day. I know the big 5-0 is right around the corner.  Another day to appreciate things, people, circumstances, whatever. I pat my puppy on the top of his head, I think about breakfast and what there is in the house and I stop to think about my schedule for the day. Nothing ever stays on schedule but it’s worth the ol’ college try.

Then the day happens.

The news always provides something you have to shake your head at. Sometimes it’s an unexpected phone call. Being a small business owner, a text from a staff member can do it. Being responsible for my mother at this point in her life is always a challenge.

But taking stock of things, today, on my birthday, 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, I am grateful my birth mother saw it in her heart to give me a chance for a better life. I am grateful for my parents – the only one’s I have ever known. I am grateful for my cousins who have always made things interesting. I am thankful for my friends, old and new, not so new and those who are no longer part of my life. I am even thankful for the people who have made my life challenging. All these people along with the experiences I have had, have come together to make me 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.

Just for the record, I had one of the best birthday days I have ever had. I spent the day enjoying everything as opposed to waiting for the next shoe to drop. The day was capped off with a wonderful martini, a perfectly cooked steak and wonderful company at a great Manhattan restaurant. Enjoyed the day thoroughly, however, I am sure realty will return tomorrow as always.

But maybe, just maybe, I can take the lesson of my birthday day through to the rest of the year – this year, I’ll be thinking positively. Let’s see where it takes me!

 

Getting back into the “Flo”

My Aunt and Godmother - never to be forgotten!

My Aunt and Godmother – never to be forgotten!

The title will hopefully make you curious. I want it that way.

An ordinary woman with an extraordinary life – no, not someone you would know – not famous, no movie star, not a political figure. This woman was a daughter, a sister, a wife, mother, aunt and godmother – friend to many, mentor to some, protector and as my cousin said, even part “Super Hero”.

Last week, my family lost one of its more colorful characters. My Aunt Flo – Florence Sullivan. Born in Long Island City, Queens, New York, a resident of Dumont, Ringwood and finally Brick, New Jersey – not a world traveler, Ivy League graduate but one of the smartest, fiesty and formidible woman I have had the honor to have in my life.

I could make a list of stories: my godmother, held me in her arms at my “blessing”; cared for me on many a weekend/week long trip; summer vacation in Ship Bottom, New Jersey; at every life event – communion, confirmation, graduations, business opening; deep conversations as I got older; trips to Pennsylvania to visit with my parents at their campground retreat; holidays and other days to meet up and spend time as our family often did. So many things and times that left indelible marks on me as I grew up.

My mother’s family has been through this battle before – before “Alzheimer’s” was the unfortunate diagnosis of the week, my grandmother suffered from memory lapses, then loss, wandering back to her old neighborhood, going missing and making for frantic searches which I remember as a 5 year old. She was “just getting old” and “this is what happens” were the things I remember hearing about my grandmother. She passed in 1973 – her other grandchildren, my cousins had been spared most of the gorey details of how she could no longer communicate, becoming bed ridden, every need to be tended to by my grandfather and mom – even an “opportuntity” for me at the age of 6 to give my grandmother dinner – baby food as she could no longer chew or swallow. Now you may think that that is not something a 6 year old should be doing – you can have your opinion. Because she could not speak, she would grab onto you when she became cognizant of who you were and held on with all her might. I am not saying it was a wonderful experience but, as they say, it built character. My grandmother was lovingly cared for by her husband until the night she passed, at home, peacefully.

My aunt, my mother’s sister, my grandmother’s daughter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. I watched again as a woman who was tenacious, fiesty, vocal, and at times, demanding and strict, slipped away from our world, with only brief, fleeting moments of recognition. This time, it wasn’t just “this is what happens when someone gets old” – it was clinical, medical and diagnosed – ALZHEIMER’S. Even the word sounds like a throw back to some Gestapo torture briefly hinted on in a World War II documentary. Same things… same robbed life.

Retirement should have given rise to years of rest, travel, grandchildren and walks on the beach. But this was not to be for my aunt. Her daughter, Colleen, spoke at the funeral Mass yesterday and paid homage to everything her mother had done for her. Aunt Flo had done so much for her son, Patrick and her daughter, Debbie after their father’s untimely death in the early 60’s. She began a new life with my Uncle Mort and as he told me yesterday, “saved him”. He loved her more than any of us ever realized; as Colleen said, he cared for her through every step of this horrible disease – at home, by her side, where she passed.

Over the last two days, I have heard all the same words used to describe my grandmother and now, my aunt. Their caregivers, their husbands, did more than they ever thought they could.

I don’t know who has it worse – the person who losses the ability to know people, things, events and more or the people who have to watch the long fading and try desparately to hold on to every piece of normalcy. I had to apologize to my cousins as I did not form a tough skin from my experiences as a child – I should have been able to tolerate the progression and lend more of a helpful hand in the process, but I could not bear to see such a strong figure in my life fade away. I am sorry for that. Colleen asked me when it gets better – my dad had passed away in 2007, so maybe she thought I had some wonderful words of wisdom on this matter. I wish that I did. All I could definitely say to her was that it “gets different” – once you start with your normal routine, get back into the flow of your regular life, you’ll remember but it will be different. Enjoy people, places, things when they present themselves to you – be open and spontaneous – treasure the family that you’re born into, the friends you let into your life and every experience that comes your way. Whatever it is, make the best of it.

I keep with me my memories – good, old and recent – a blanket, crocheted by my aunt years ago even though she could barely hold the needles as arthritis and Carpal Tunnel made it a true “labor of love”. My last visit with her, when she saw me and immediately put her hand to her opened mouth and said, “I can’t believe your here!” with the biggest smile ever. She extended her hand, grabbed mine and held on ever so tightly – I felt the same way I used to when my grandmother would do that but I came to the realization that the tight hold was the hug they could no longer give – holding on to what my grandmother, now my aunt, remembered that they loved.

My aunt gave me the best gift she could that day as she allowed me to do something I had not done in over 40 years – I sat right next to my aunt, held her hand and told her that I loved her. She looked away sheepishly, turned back, then smiled with a tear in her eye. She remembered.

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