Monthly Archives: August 2014

Small Town Girl

GetAttachment88      This Labor day weekend and every other labor day weekend for 33 years, I have attended the Taste of Melrose Park. I was there earlier today, and I was so happy to be able to bring my son Matteo to his first Taste and it got me thinking how much I love being a small town girl and how much my hometown will always be a part of me. Melrose Park is a small suburb of Chicago where I was born and raised. Though I do not live there anymore, I will never forget where I’m from. It is the same for many of my childhood friends as well. No matter where we are in life, how far away we move, how successful we become, how big our families grow, we still find our way back to Melrose. It is, after all, our own personal Cheers, the place you want to go where everybody knows your name. Big cities have their glamour and their shine, but the charm a small town depicts is impossible to beat.

The Taste is a fest where all the food is 3 dollars or less and it is absolutely free to get in. Not many fests are still free of charge, and not many have food this good or this cheap. It has music, rides, arts and crafts,  and some of the best food around.  It’s a place I come every year to see friends and family that I have known all of my life. Everyone has grown up, moved away, have their own families now, have huge careers, etc. but the Taste is a time where everyone we grew up with goes back to where it all began.  It is always nice to catch up, to see familiar faces, find out what everyone is up to, get to see everyone’s kids and how they are growing, and of course, we do it all while eating some mouth-watering delicious food.

When I was growing up, everything at the Taste was 1 dollar, including the roses that the neighborhood boys used to buy to hand out to the girl they were crushing on at the time. The girls would collect roses and it would become a friendly competition to see how many roses you ended up with at the end of the night. If your crush gave you a rose, it sent butterflies to your stomach and sent you giggling with your girlfriends in the corner. It was the most innocent and sweetest tradition and one  that I will never forget. It was a romantic act that displayed the boys being chivalrous at a very young age and the girls feeling admired and courted and wooed. All my girlfriends and I had to look our absolute best for this weekend each year. While most kids were going shopping for back-to-school clothes, we were scrounging together our saved-up  money to buy the cutest outfits for the Taste each year.

The town just has a special place in all of our hearts, and many outsiders will never understand it. It’s a place that just will always feel like home. Though I moved out of town almost 9 years ago, I still got married in the church there, the same church that my parents were married and that my grandparents were married.  I think that’s beautiful. I think that’s amazing.  I still baptized my child there a few months ago, where my siblings and I were also baptized. There’s honor in that. There’s value in that to me. To be a part of a small town like that, to have been lucky enough to create the childhood memories we all had together and still get to see each other at least once a year is a beautiful thing to me.

I am truly loving the life I have now, I am truly loving the town I live in now and the new memories I am creating while raising my family here,  but Melrose will always hold a special place deep within me  and no matter the distance away or how old I get,  I will always be a Melrose girl at heart.

 

 

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Just breathe

My worst enemy
My real life nightmare
My monster under the bed
Just breathe

The slow creep
The quiet takeover
The silent strangle
Just breathe

My throat begins to close
Breathe
My heart begins to pound
Just breathe
My fingers and toes go numb
Breathe
My body is covered with sweat
Please just breathe
My mind betrays me; starts believing the enemy

It comes without warning, without reason, without compassion
It knows no limits, has no restraint, has no loyalty
It just bluntly attacks
Breathe
Knocks you off your feet
Breathe
Holds your mind hostage
Breathe
Takes your breath away
Try-to-breathe
FIGHT
Never give in
Just breathe

It will not win
It will not defeat me
It will not take over
It will not kill me
I will be stronger
I will fight harder
It will not win
I choose to fight
I decide
I win
I-JUST-BREATHE

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Stay my baby

illloveyouforever4

Today my son is 6 months old. 6 months old. 6 months old. It sounds so foreign. It feels so unreal.  In the last month, Matteo now rolls over, has started to reach for me, is now eating fruits and vegetables, attempted his first sippy cup, and just yesterday, his two bottom teeth started poking through. Whaaaat?  I am his biggest cheerleader, celebrating and encouraging and hollering for each milestone, but that one sick part of me is saying Noooo! Waiiitttt! Stopppp! Don’t get any bigger. Stay my baby forever.

It’s already going by so fast. Now I know what all these mothers and fathers are always complaining about. My own father always told me one of the hardest things for him was when he realized I was getting too old to watch cartoons with him anymore on Saturday mornings, all snuggled up on the couch. I want to tell him I’ll watch cartoons with you, Daddy. I’m never too old. I’ll always be your baby.  Because now I know just how bittersweet it was for my parents to watch my brother, sister, and I grow up. The word ‘Bittersweet’ rings so fitting and so true to my newest Mommy Dilemma. I am extremely proud and amazed and happy that my son  is growing so fast, that he is so strong, that he is excelling beautifully. But I am so sad that some day soon, he won’t fit in my arms when I cradle him, he won’t hold tightly onto my fingers or stroke my face gently, or look up at me adoringly while I am feeding him his ba-ba.

There’s going to be a time that his eyes won’t light up when I walk into a room, a time when I won’t be the girl that puts the biggest smile on his face, a time where he won’t think every single word I say to him is so funny and interesting. There is going to be a time where he is going to be embarrassed by the millions of kisses I give to him each day and he is going to start to push me away. There is going to be a time when I can no longer dress him in all his cute outfits, no longer watch him splish splash and giggle his sweet baby giggle in the bathtub, no longer see his little legs and feet dance in delight as I come near him, no more mommy and Matteo reading time, no more morning selfies sent to Daddy each morning to brighten his work day, no more adoring looks of love that he sends my way no matter what he is doing, just to make sure I’m looking.

The way my son looks at me now is something I wish I could capture in a glass jar and treasure forever. I might not need that glass jar though. That mesmerized look, that twinkle  in my son’s eyes when he looks at me will be forever imprinted in my brain and engraved in my heart. It is something I could never forget. It makes me feel like no matter what else I have done in life, I have done at least one thing right.

The one piece of advice I would give any woman about to become a mother is to treasure every single moment you have with them because it really goes by in the blink of an eye. I feel like I was just in the hospital giving birth to this beautiful gift from God and now I am pulling down the 6 to 9 month clothes bin and staring at it in disbelief. Each day with Matteo is a new discovery, a new sound, a new object he favors, a new unveiling of one of the many pieces that will help mold him into the man he will one day become. ‘Man.’ My tiny little boy will one day be a man. Unfathomable. But maybe I will have loved him just right and cheered for him just right and  taught him just right so that he will be this incredible, loving, smart, loyal, and amazing man. And though I will be tremendously proud of that man, he will still always be my precious little baby to me.

 

 

 

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One Step Forward

” We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” FDR

Where does it fit? Do any of us really know where their puzzle piece of life truly belongs? Do we ever really know for sure if the path that we have taken was the one we were destined to follow?  How will we ever really know  if we don’t surrender to the fear of putting ourselves out there, of reaching for our dreams, of following the path less traveled?

Was it all written in my script that I was given when I took my first breath of this air that keeps whirling me around and around, leading me in so many directions. This direction: safe, secure, normal, content, cozy. That direction: Unknown, Wild, Dangerous, Terrifying. Maybe it’s just the journey, not the destination. I don’t think I know exactly. I just know I don’t want any walls prisoning me.  I just know that in order to really see or be seen, one has to remove the blinders; life’s distorted sunglasses that keep obstructing the desired vision.  Will I go the distance to the other side of the dark? Can my mountain of insecurities be overcome? Will I turn the page to the new level of multicolored dreams awakening me, empowering me, every step of the way?

One step forward.

        Another step further.

No more cracks in the sidewalk. I will achieve the unachievable and I will not look back at footprints that walked over me, at hands that pulled me back, at eyes behind sunglasses that tried to blind me of my strength. 

 You have to be willing to put yourself out there, uncover the layers… take off your sunglasses.  You can’t play hide and seek with the stars forever. I took my sunglasses off and I lost them in the dust when the wind blew. Will you?..

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Mommy see, Mommy do

Rookie. Newbie. First-time Mom. That’s me.  It is painfully obvious that I am not a veteran. I might as well be wearing it as a sort of scarlet letter branded across my forehead. That’s me- the one in the waiting room at the doctors office with my notepad of questions to ask the doctor. After almost 6 months now of my Matteo’s life- I think his doctor knows me well enough that at the end of her required tests and check lists, she sits down and says ” ok, what questions did you bring for me today ? “

Yes, I still sit in the backseat with my son while my husband is driving. Yes, I still sleep with the monitor literally next to my face and continue to run in his room at least twice a night just to get a closer look and to see him breathing up close. Yes, I listen to every guideline and rule book out there.  My doctor’s advice and opinions are like the bible to me. Yes, I jump 10 feet in the air and suffer mini-heart attacks when Matteo coughs or cries really hard or makes a new sound. Yes, I read book after book and article after article on the newest philosophies on child care and ways to always stimulate your baby’s mind and help develop the smartest babies. Yes, I read a new book to my son every single day even though he can’t possible understand any of it yet. Yes, I constantly ask questions to other moms, to my mother and my mother-in-law, constantly ask my doctor if the way I’m doing something is right, constantly over-think and worry and stress if I’m doing a good job and if others think I’m doing a good job. 

Yes, I’m that girl. I’ve always been. Of course I like to think I’m not – but I’ve always been a please-approve-of-what-I’m-doing girl. I’m a student down to the bone. I read, I analyze, I research everything. Having my first baby brings it out in me even more. There’s not one item in my house for my son that I have not researched thoroughly and hmmed and hawed over before buying.  Preparing my registry for my baby shower was like a full -time job. I drove my husband crazy, my sister crazy, my best friends crazy, my cousins crazy. I did not stop. I needed to have the very best, the most practical, the safest, the cutest, and I needed to be very sure before adding anything to the registry. 

I downloaded app after app after app during my pregnancy to ensure I was doing all I could do, that I was finding out everything there was to know about my child’s development and growth. I bought one of those at-home heartbeat monitors to check on the baby and I did it more times then I’d like to admit. I just had to make sure he was safe. My own personal angel that was sent to me from heaven. You bet I was going to do anything and everything I could to protect him and keep him safe. After all, I have been waiting for him all my life.

So yes , I am a first-time mom and I’m a little crazy. I’m a little irrational. I’m a little over-bearing and over-protective . So what. It’s more like a badge of honor to me, than a scarlet letter . I wear it loud and proud. I am proud that I am new at this, proud that I want to give my son the very best life has to offer, proud that I would move heaven and earth to give him anything he needs, proud that I would walk through fire to keep him safe and protected, and proud that I’m doing a damn good job for a rookie, if I do say so myself.  

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All that is not said

The Huffington Post's photo.

Sometimes the most talented of people simply can’t handle all they are given, all that they are destined for, all the greatness they were blessed with. Sometimes, they can be surrounded by many, celebrated by millions, loved by all, but the inner demons are so unbearably loud that that is the only sound that could be heard. A great man died today regardless if it was by his own doing or not, it’s still a tragedy all the same . An enormous talent and even bigger personality is no longer among us. Still, what remains is a tremendously wide scope of his various talents that will be forever cherished and treasured. If his death teaches us anything, it’s that even the ones that seem to have it all can still be suffering and going through their own private agony. Don’t assume someone has it all together just because the surface of things appear to be all rainbows and sunshine. 

A wise teacher once told me ” Remaining silent is a weapon used to defend their image” when I voiced concern that I was the only one asking questions or not understanding. She said sometimes my classmates didn’t understand either, but out of fear of looking stupid or fear of speaking up in class, they chose to remain silent and risked getting a bad grade on the assignment just so that they still appeared cool and like they had it all together. SPEAK UP. If you need help, ASK FOR IT. If you need a hand, REACH FOR IT. 

Anne Frank said ” In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  I agree with Anne Frank. If you believe that too, you’d be surprised at how many people will help you if only you would reach out and ask. You’d be surprised at how many tortured souls we have lost that could have been saved had they just reached out and said the words that needed to be said. Help me. See me. Hear me. Feel me. Love me. Protect me. Save me….

  Speak up. Don’t become a victim of your inner demons and all that is not said.  

 

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Judgment Day

” Only God can Judge me”  Do any of you really believe that is true?   Tupac believed that, but in the end,  I’m pretty sure he learned that wasn’t the case. Have you ever heard people say “It’s not my place to judge” ,  or ” I don’t judge anyone”, or ” Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” or  “Who are  you to judge?”  Why do we utter such nonsense? It’s lies. We are just lying to others, to ourselves, but fooling no one in the process. What we should be saying instead is that judgment is innate. It is human. It is honest. What matters is what  we do with that judgment. How we act unto others after making the judgments or thinking the judgments is the real concern here. But to deny something that is involuntary is to deny human nature. We can’t control whom we judge. We can only control how we treat others after. And you can bet God will judge those actions the most. 

We all judge. No matter if you come to terms with it or not, fact is fact. You walk out of your house everyday and stare judgment directly in the face, unintentionally, unconsciously, or sometimes plain out deliberately. We can fool ourselves all we want by thinking we don’t judge, by thinking we never think we are better than another, but we all do it. The human species will continue to do it. Forever.

It’s not only us who are judging, but we are also the victims of being judged; by our race, by our face, by our weight, by our friends, by being human. It is something that is beyond our control. I do not have power over my way of thinking upon meeting you. I look at you, I see you for the first time, and I don’t just look away without a second thought. I read you, I analyze you, I admire you, or  I shamefully belittle you. Simply put, I judge you. All by the way you look, or the way you stand, or by with whom you are accompanied.( ” Tell me who you hang around with and I’ll tell you what you are.” ) I walk inside a destination and I don’t think about the judgments being thrown my way. I am oblivious to the people around me deciding who I am and how I am all by the way I look at that particular moment in time and by the actions in which I am participating.

I don’t think about the millions of bystanders I am unaware of that are deciding if I’m pretty, if I’m ugly, if I’m fat, if I’m skinny, if I’m smart,  if I’m like them, or if I’m abnormal in any way. I don’t think about the people deciding if I’m worthy of their attention, if they want to befriend me, if they are jealous of me, or those people that hate me instantly, just like that.

I don’t think about my elders who look at me and see their youth flashing before their wise eyes and think ” I never dressed like that, or talked like that, or acted that way.” I don’t think about the kids who may look up to me  or the kids that  decide right there on the spot that when they grow up they will never be like me, or dress how I dress, or talk how I talk, or hang with people like the ones I hang with.

The point is you just don’t think before you judge.  I’m completely unaware of all that is being directed at me and all that I am directing at others. Right now though, as I sit here and think about the things that I never think about; I am discovering that the only way to overcome judgment is to come to terms with the fact that we can never overcome it.  It’s a force that is naturally beyond our control.

Some of us spend our whole lives anticipating the famous so-called “Judgment Day” and I can’t help but wonder what we are all worried about. We’re all dreading a day when we’re supposed to be judged. The sad part is that that one day is every day-for as long as we shall live and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

Maybe stop and think  about this before you tell someone ” I don’t judge,”  It is not dishonorable and wrong to do so. It’s more honorable to come to terms with the fact that all of us judge, than to be dishonorable by lying about it, and defying the components that make up human nature. I say, go ahead and judge. You will anyway. What defines character is what you choose to do with those judgments and how you act in spite of them.  

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Sunday Dinners with Mia Famiglia

Growing up, I missed a lot of  ” Sunday Fundays” with friends; whether they were swimming, hanging out, shopping, whatever. If it was a Sunday, everyone knew where I would be. Sunday was a day for family. All day long. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was an amazing way to grow up. It helped mold me into the person I am today and I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Growing up Italian Catholic meant two things on Sundays:  1) You went to church  and 2) you had Sunday dinner with your entire immediate family. To most, immediate families meant mom, dad, brother, sister, dog, whomever lives in your home, right? Not in our family.  Immediate family meant  my grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, and yeah, even sometimes 2nd and 3rd cousins. And when I say Sunday dinner together, I mean all at one long table.  It doesn’t get any better than that… or any crazier/louder than that either.  The first time my husband who is only a tiny bit Italian came for sunday dinner, he asked why everyone was screaming, and he seriously had a headache the whole night after leaving.  I really didn’t notice what he was referring to!  “That’s just how we talk,”  I said! 

 The smell of sunday dinner is something that will never escape my memory. The smell of fresh warm garlic bread, a fresh batch of  gravy (no, not sauce)  on the stove simmering all day long, creating an aroma that filled your nostrils the second you walked in the door.  Wine was poured, plates were completely filled and you couldn’t leave the table until you finished your plate, oh and the salad was always eaten last.

I was lucky enough to begin life with both sets of grandparents.  That meant church, then going to my paternal grandparents for an early dinner (Italians also eat very early on sundays, usually around 2pm or 3pm) and then heading over to my maternal grandparents for dessert and then cards.  It was never a complete sunday without cards! And you want to talk about loud?  I think we knew every swear word in both Italian and English by the time we were 3!  My family always fought hard,  everything was an argument, but we loved even harder.  Kisses and hugs, food galore, laughter, love, and family, every sunday.  What more can you ask for? 

Unfortunately, Sunday dinners ended early on my paternal side, when I lost my Nani and Papa at a very young age. My Nani first, then my Papa a few years later. The void of losing them that early has still never left me. I was fortunate enough to still have my other grandparents and the Sunday tradition carried on with them  until I was 30 years old, almost 4 years ago. I lost my maternal Nani first,  then my Papa a few years later. History sadly repeating itself.  I’d say that is pretty lucky and pretty damn amazing though to be able to say that every sunday for 30 years, I had the wonderful comfort of knowing that no matter how bad the week was, what was going on in any of our lives, no matter what time of year, no matter who was getting along and who wasn’t, we were together as a family every single Sunday. 

We still carry on the tradition with my real immediate family now at my parents house with my brother and sister and their families and myself, my husband, and my son Matteo.  No, it’s not the same. It’s still loud, it’s still crazy, it’s still filled with love, but it’s just a little quieter,  a little tamer, our hearts are a little heavier with the loss of more and more family members each year. But I will say this, sundays are still for family, we still sit at one long table,  the pasta is still served,  the bread still warm waiting for us, laughter still fills the house from morning to night, and the love for one another is still growing strong. We still know that no matter what, we always have sundays together as a family. I like to think my grandparents are smiling down on us from heaven, clinking their wine glasses together, and still smelling the fine aroma of great food,  love, laughter, and family at every single Sunday Dinner.

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Pursuing the dream(s) : BIG and small

September 2012- Married the man of my dreams and high school crush. Had the Big fat Italian wedding followed by dream honeymoon in Atlantis,Bahamas -CHECK !
February 2014- gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy and named him Matteo, my all-time favorite boys name. CHECK!
To say those two milestones completed my life is an understatement. I was able to believe again. I was able to be whole again, and whole in a way that I never even knew I wasn’t.
Those dreams, small as they may seem to many ambitious others, were as big and imperative as they can get to me. It was all I ever wanted – to be a wife and to be a mother. And they came true! But don’t misunderstand, the road wasn’t an easy one . Our wedding song was ” God bless the broken road that led me straight to you.” It was the most fitting, most perfect way to capture what led my husband and I to each other. Obstacles were always in the way; hard-hitting road blocks deliberately placed to deter me from my dreams.
For starters -a previous relationship that scarred me so bad, I didn’t think I would ever be able to love myself, let alone anyone else ever again. I was a broken person that only my husband could heal. Then after our magical and perfect wedding came a heart-wrenching miscarriage. But then the light shined again and I was pregnant with my angel Matteo. Out of nowhere, two months before I give birth, I find out the company I’ve worked for for 11 years was being sold and I was laid off. I had planned to work there for my whole career. It was a great job and I was going to be able to work from home and raise my baby myself.
The blessing in disguise here was that I had more time to focus on my baby, and more time to finally stop putting off this fear of putting myself out there and daring to pursue my last and final life-long dream: to write. And not just write, but write publicly and not be so intimidated and bound by fear. I continuously have held myself back from putting myself out there and facing the unknown. I have always been a writer. I wrote poetry and wrote in journals since I was a little girl. It’s been my third and final life-long dream to one day write a book of my own, or publish a collection of my poetry, or now in 2014 – create a successful blog career.
No matter what happens, I will know this- that if I am successful or not, I at least made the first brave and raw step of putting my most private thoughts and feelings out there in cyber space for all the world to see. Though that may not make any dream come true, it does contribute to the 2nd dream. I can show my child that you should never give up on your dreams, no matter what obstacles stand in the way, no matter how big or small those dreams may be. The art of it all is to continue to believe, pursue, and never stop dreaming.

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