Category Archives: lessons

Momma, You Were Born This Way

IMG_0079This was originally written 11 years ago when my mother was 85. She left this world on 12/04/2020 at 94, saying, “Be kind to others no matter what.” It’s not always an easy task to fulfill, but if nothing else, my mother reminded me to at least give it a shot daily.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I decided to pay homage to my mother … Venita. My mother is the oldest of three children born to her Italian immigrant parents, Vincenzo Torcini and Maria/Mary Landini, in 1926.

Vincenzo left her life at 4 years old, shortly after the Great Depression entered. This left her mother with the burden of raising her young children alone, without any means to do so. After this abandonment, she suffered from what would most likely be considered a nervous breakdown today. No welfare, free housing, or valium for Maria. 

Years later, my mother was told that the apartment they were living in had caught fire, and her mother was under the impression that the children perished. That pushed her over the edge and led her to the breakdown.

Scenarios like this were common, especially amongst immigrant families during the Great Depression. Many could not find work to support their families because they could not speak English. This frustration, piled on top of economic pressures, led to abandonment and, in some cases, suicide.

This tragic set of circumstances left my mother and her sibling in the care of Catholic Charities in Philadelphia. They were placed in an orphanage, followed by a Shelter. This emergency lodging was set up to accommodate all families that had become homeless following the Depression. Some were run privately and were set up to serve cases like that of my mother’s family. These children needed homes until their parents were able to support them again.

My mother and her brother, who were only 14 months apart, were separately placed into homes. The children were taken to several homes before settling into somewhat permanent residences. My uncle was raised by an Italian family in South Philadelphia, while my mother was raised by an Irish woman in North Philadelphia. My mother still calls her “the Irish woman who raised me.” She rarely refers to her by name, which was Ellen O’Malley. Ellen was a widow at a very young age, never had children of her own, and never re-married. Her single lifestyle allowed her to open her home to these children. Giving children to single women..now that’s a switch. 

Ellen O’Malley, or “Auntie,” cared for my mother from when she was 7 years old until she was 16. Other children were placed during her time with “Auntie”; however, they had parents who remained in their lives with weekly visitations. These children were just waiting for their parents to get work to rebuild their lives, but this was not the case for my Mom. Her father never did return, and her mother remained at the hospital until her death. This left my mother to just wait, wonder and hope.

Auntie did the best she could to raise her. However, she did not maternally express herself. This is understandable since the other children had mothers in their lives, and she most likely didn’t want to impose.

Mom “Venita” enjoying lunch prepared
by Evan, one of her 8 remarkable
grandchildren.

When my mother talks to me about her own mother, I can hear the yearning for unanswered questions in her tone.

At 85 years old, she is still left to wonder if her face resembles that of her mother or father. No pictures, trinkets, memories of her own, and surprisingly…not one ounce of resentment.

What is her secret? How did my mother raise (4) children of her own without ever experiencing the love and nurturing of her own mother?

I have to conclude … Momma, you were born this way. She is a humble and loving person who gained strength from her hardship, which resonates with her enormous love for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The reason I chose the title of this Blog is that my mother, Venita enjoys Lady Gaga. You heard me…the same day the photo above was taken, “Just Dance” came on the radio. My Mom asked, “Is this Lady Gaga? I saw her on The View in the cutest black and white outfit. If I were young, I would have that dress.” This was followed by “She’s a smart girl.”  I was so grateful she wasn’t referring to the Meat Dress. 

At 85, she is a hip, hat-wearing, organic-eating, interesting, funny, strong Lady Gaga-loving Democrat who enjoys going to the movies, solving crossword puzzles, dropping hilarious one-liners, and LOVING her family with all her heart. But most of all … she is my Mom. Enjoy the Ride!

Unspoken No’s

Daily writing prompt
What does freedom mean to you?
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m starting to get the impression that WordPress is honing in on my innermost thoughts, like Instagram and Facebook. It’s no accident that this question was presented to me today.

Freedom has three different meanings. The first kind of freedom is “freedom from,” freedom from the constraints of society. Second is “freedom to,” freedom to do what we want. Thirdly, there is “freedom to be,” not just to do what we want but to be who we were meant to be.

As I teeter on the edge of entering the third chapter of my life, the “freedom to be” resonates with me the most. Probably because it is truly the only one I can change myself, yet it seems complicated. Why?

Well, I’m learning that when you’ve been conditioned for decades that specific belief systems are etched in stone for the rest of eternity, it takes some time to believe that; well, that’s bullshit. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

For me, it all started with the labels. Oh, yes. Not that they were necessarily wrong labels. Who wouldn’t want to be crowned “the good one” or “the one with the big heart?” They seemed like compliments then, but it has been a heavy load and, frankly, a lot of responsibility. A ton of unspoken no’s on my back.

That seemingly small, good intention has created a woman who has given her power to everyone and everything for so long that she has forgotten she has the freedom to just be. A fraud!

This is not the first time an epiphany has presented itself. I’ve recognized this at other times in my life, in other situations, but this was different. Peeling the layers over time.

Things were quietly being revealed over the last two years. Bit by bit, I recognized the chains that were holding me back from the life I was meant to live. Not realizing I had the keys the whole time.

I know I must be getting very close to healing the core because suddenly, all the pieces of my complicated makeup came together, and I wept and wept. Cleansing the soul.

Someone asked, “Why are you crying?” and I didn’t have an answer. It was as if all the words I was trying to say hit a roadblock in my mouth. I was crying because I recognized the freedom.

Over the past few days, I’ve thought about my tears and those of everyone else who experienced freedom in one way or another. The only way to describe it is an enormous relief, followed by the question … Now what?

Enjoy the Ride!

The Garden Dawdler

Every week Rory posts 9 questions to pause and get the juices flowing.

What do you find yourself splurging on the most?

My ideas on splurging have changed significantly over the years. At one time, it was clothes and shoes, followed by special things for my children and vacations; now, it’s organic fruits, vegetables, and meat. Which are equally as expensive these days.

What is your top writing tip?

As Nike says, Just Do It.

Are you a regular recycler, and if so, what are five of your top recycling tips?

Yes, reuse what you can for as long as possible. Be creative. Rinse the glass. Break down the boxes. Be mindful of the long-term effects.

Are you someone that wants to be or needs to be heard and seen, or are you content to be found behind the scenes?

It depends on the circumstances. I want to be heard and seen if it’s something important to myself and the common good. Otherwise, I’m very content behind the scenes.

How approachable do you think you are in real life and away from the keyboard, and do others feel the same way about you?

Apparently, I am very approachable. How do I know this to be true? I am constantly approached by strangers asking questions or just starting a conversation.


Do you sit more on the fence or the edge of the knife?

Over the years, I’ve spent a good amount of time on the fence, and I find that it causes anxiety. I’ve been learning to trust my instincts more as I’ve gotten older to become more comfortable jumping in when necessary.

What do you remember the most about your grandparents?

I did not have grandparents, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to witness my children be loved unconditionally by theirs.

How important to you is validation from your readers to your written content – do you need acknowledgment from others to create?

It was important in the past. However, after reading that my favorite authors of all time struggled with validation, I let down my guard. It just doesn’t matter; do it for yourself, and the rest will follow.

What is it you would have liked to have been asked about your life but have yet to be?  

I feel I’ve told a good amount of my story before it was ever asked of me. One thing no one really inquires about is how did it all make me feel along the way.

Vintage?

Ok, I believe another word is being thrown around too freely. The term is Vintage. According to my friends over at Merriam-Webster, the definition is: of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality. Classic. Which is precisely what I thought.

When I hear Vintage, I think of a Channel suit resting in the back of the closet for decades and re-entering the world as if it never paused. That, ladies and gents, is Vintage.

Now, back to my shock and awe regarding the over usage. There is a unique/totally overpriced but super cool store in my area that carries an array of antique, slightly used, but very high-end merchandise or local artist creations. I love to browse through every once in a while to see what might catch my eye. My eyes definitely have a separate bank account from mine.

On one of my looks, but keep my wallet in the car visits, a small bouquet of the most vibrant plumb-colored silk hydrangeas seduced me. I’m so easy.

I prepared myself for the sticker shock and went in for a closer look. I lifted the beautiful rustic tag and read Vintage Silk Hydrangeas for $14.00. Um, vintage?

Ok, points for the tag and maybe even a few for the perfect penmanship, but I had to draw the line at trying to pass off used silk flowers as Vintage. They didn’t need the extra marketing. It was love at first sight.

According to Google, something has to be at least 40 to bear the vintage title, and these beauties were toddlers at best, and for that reason alone, I put them back on the shelf. I’m not going to lie; it was a long goodbye.

Two weeks later, I was still thinking about the purple beauties. Were they still available, or would they go home with someone else? Ugh …

Feeling like a needy first date, I went back for answers.

It wasn’t easy because the entire store was rearranged to accommodate new temptations. After what seemed like an eternity, we were reunited. It was like a scene from a movie.

Once our eyes locked, it was over. They were in my hand, at the register, and out the door in a flash. Not because they were Vintage but because they were beautiful.

This was a lesson to be mindful when I choose my words. Labels, whether placed on objects or people, can be harmful. It’s just an easy way to market people, places, and things we don’t understand.

Enjoy the Ride!

Opposites Attract

Daily writing prompt
Who was your most influential teacher? Why?

Let me get something out of the way right from the start. I have never had a teacher in a traditional school setting who I consider influential. Sorry, not sorry.

The first person to teach, influence or guide me through a learning process was Lawrence T., a partner in one of the largest law firms in Philadelphia. He was a man who perspired wealth with a reputation for being complex yet brilliant at his craft. For whatever reason, we clicked.

I was 24 years old and in the process of divorcing my high school sweetheart, who left me in a financial disaster. The mortgage company seizing my wages was only one of my many hurdles.

This time in my life was challenging, to say the least. I was trying to navigate selling a house, negotiating payments to creditors, and accepting that everything I believed to be true about love and marriage was a lie. I’m sure I was still doing laundry for my kids when they were 24.

Somehow, by the grace of God, that slate was cleared off in a little over a year when Lawrence T. approached me with an employment opportunity that would change my life, not because of the job, but the chance to replenish that emptiness with positive challenges. I was scared to take this plunge but had nothing to lose.

On my first day, Lawrence introduced me to the department in a way that had me looking over my shoulder, swearing he couldn’t possibly be talking about me. He handed me a title with all the perks without the formal education required. He convinced me that my experience outweighed any certification from an institution. He clearly saw something I never saw.

He gave me free rein to make decisions, which I was not accustomed to. I was drafting legal motions without any direction aside from the order. My face was undoubtedly asking, “are you insane?” because I was quickly told, “you know what to do; give it a shot.” I felt like a first-grader asked to do calculus.

Lawrence always used a Montblanc fountain pen, which was something foreign to me. I didn’t know anyone who used a fountain pen daily. I didn’t know they existed outside of signing the declaration of independence.

Over the next several months, I drafted many documents, and they were returned to me with so many revisions I was left thinking, “why not just write it yourself.” FYI: Those revisions stand out when someone uses a Mont Blanc pen.

This process continued until he walked into my office one day with a clean document, a big smile, and the words, “I knew you could do it.” I hadn’t felt that good since, well, forever.

While sitting here today, thirty-five years later, I was forced to remember what his influence taught me to do and recognize things within myself that had been beaten down by the world around me.

This daily prompt came at the perfect time. I haven’t thought about Lawrence or this blip of time in my life for quite some time, yet it was the first thing that popped into my head when I read the question.

There are no accidents. Thank you, Creator, for showing me the lesson I needed to see today.

Enjoy the Ride!

The Pain of a Pleasantry

What is one question you hate to be asked? Explain.

How are you? It seems easy enough, but it’s a farce. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t answer honestly. My automatic response is, “good, how about you?” Lies, all lies.

Over the years, I’ve learned that this can be a loaded question, especially sitting at the front desk at a doctor’s office. The elder community can be real comedians when they’re hit with this question; responding with “well, I’m vertical” or “how much time do you have?” without missing a beat always made me laugh, so I guess it has some good qualities. Take your show on the road, folks.

It comes down to the fact that this question is nothing more than a pleasantry. If we all answered it honestly, nothing would ever get done. The world would be one extensive therapy session after another. There aren’t enough sofas to handle that.

I take this question to another level, especially from someone I genuinely care about. The world’s weight could be on my shoulders, but I’ll never burden them with the truth. “I’m fine” is my go-to response because it’s easier than reality. Child trauma in the house.

I’ve learned that this is a conditioned reaction, and I’ve been trying to unlearn it over the years, but some situations arise where clamming up is more comforting than spilling my guts. Ironically, those closest to me know when I’m a clam, so I’m not even good at it; I just think I am. I’m such a Pisces.

Breaking these dysfunctional habits is a process and a long, complicated one at that. As always, recognizing the problem is the first step. Next is the unlearning process.

One of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from the book “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse” by Charles Mackesy.

I wonder if there is a school of unlearning?

Recently, I took an accelerated course in unlearning. Have you heard of it? Oh, it’s crazy, and the class comes to you at the most inappropriate time. I was driving on a busy highway to see my granddaughter. My sister called, and I suddenly thought I was dying while we talked via Bluetooth. Oh, yeah, it’s called accelerated for a reason.

I pulled over and listened to my sister recite breathing instructions, prayers, and pearls of wisdom for almost 2 hours before my son arrived.

So, back to our original programming. The reason I hate to be asked, “How are you?” It’s a trigger. Yep, three little words sure know how to pack a punch. While I get back to doing my best to openly communicate my emotions without the fear of judgment or criticism, please, take the time to Enjoy the Ride!

I Say Goodbye, You Say Hello

Describe the last difficult “goodbye” you said.

Hmm, well, this is an unfortunately easy one for me to answer.

I said goodbye to my mom on 12/4/2020. Correction, 12/2, 12/3, and 12/4. I didn’t get the memo that death isn’t quick and peaceful like in the movies. You heard it here; it’s NOT.

On 12/2, I sat on a loveseat in my family room, watching my mother “sleep” in her bed. I talked about our good times together, especially our vacations at the shore with my kids and how much fun we had shell hunting and playing in the sand. I thanked her for being such a good mom for so long.

On 12/3, while sitting on that same loveseat, mom seemed very agitated, not peaceful. At one point, she screamed, “MOM, MOM!” with desperation so loud my daughter flew down the steps thinking it was me screaming. This was shocking because my mother was an orphan who had never seen so much as a photo of her own mother. It took us a minute to absorb what had just happened, and without saying a word, I returned to staring at the person I loved the longest, and my daughter returned to her work.

Have you ever cried so much you started wondering how many tears a human being has in their body? This was the theme of day 3. At 4:00 p.m. on 12/4/202, the tears of sorrow were replaced with relief for my mother and me.

In hindsight, I recognize that all the circumstances leading up to that goodbye happened for my benefit. However, the longevity of her life filled those final days with all sorts of emotions. As I was saying goodbye to a mother, I was fortunate enough to have, for 50-plus years, my mother had to leave this world at 94 to say hello to hers.

Enjoy the Ride!

Groundhog Day

What is the biggest challenge you will face in the next six months?

I’m not sure this will be the “biggest,” but it’s something I find challenging.

Remember the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray living each day in a time loop? Well, that’s my challenge for the next six months and forever. Breaking free from the loop.

Every day I wake up grateful for my day. I pray and ask for protection, peace of mind, and mercy to get me through. I ask that this day be a better day than the one before it, and then it begins.

Challenges approach like Ninja’s to assist in my growth. Let’s just say some days are much better than others. But isn’t that what it’s all about? Learning, changing, and growing into the best versions of ourselves.

Relearning. Restricting. Pausing. These three know how to keep a girl on her toes. Sometimes I’m successful; other days, I feel like I’ve fought a war.

So, I will continue this journey to elevate my consciousness over the next six months. The challenge will be recognizing that the challenges I face along the way are coming from a place of lack, fear, and doubt, and I will need to pause before reacting with my comfortable reactive responses.

Enjoy the Ride!

Growth ans Fireflies

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

My sister is in the process of moving, most likely a plane ride away. Over the past two years, we’ve endlessly talked about her plans while I was processing my own.

A lot of significant changes were on the table. Relationship status, home sales, employment, and aging into a new decade.

Along the way, there were ups and downs, and all around with it, but in the end, everything fell into place as intended.

Now that we’re in the final stretch, the reality of getting on a plane to visit is sinking in on my end.

At 15 months apart, we were raised like twins dressing alike and doing everything together until our teenage years when we had different circles. As we grew into ourselves, we were back together again, having our children together and, most recently, becoming grandmothers.

We’ve been so busy cheering each other on that I haven’t thought about the enormity of this potential distance apart. Yes, I’m happy, proud, and excited about her future ventures, but suddenly I feel nostalgic about what was.

These feelings showed up in my dream last night. I dreamt I was approached by someone requesting I write a passage for their book. It was based on a missing woman, and I was to write it as if I knew the character when we were children. This is how it went.

We were two little girls with big imaginations playing in the basement of our rowhome. We always had each other, never needing outside playmates. As the younger of the duo, I would pretend to be a mother of 4 at the tender age of 9, providing our dolls with the nurturing they deserved. At the same time, my sister, who loved school, bypassed the teacher and went directly to playing a principal, making policy changes, and firing the Barbie and Dawn doll staff members.

On hot Summer nights, fresh from the bath and dressed in matching babydoll pajamas, we would grab our Maxwell House coffee cans with holes punched in the lids to catch fireflies in our yard. We went as far as adding grass to eat while they were being held captive, then, after counting our inventory, we let them go before heading to bed.

I woke up with mixed emotions as I wrote everything down not to forget a signal detail. It shook me on some level. The passages were vivid, and the memories were something I hadn’t thought about in decades. Why now?

Laying in bed, eyes wide open, I thought about those two little girls in the basement. Those roles now look more like survivor skills. Me providing the nurturing, I hungered while my sister did her best to gain control that was nowhere to be found in our house, both happening as we were still playful little girls catching fireflies.

Like us, our parents did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time. I’m grateful for the consciousness to recognize this for what it is without casting blame on myself or my parents.

Now, off to work where things won’t be so deep ❤

Enjoy the Ride!

Share Your World 2023

Considering I only have one day under my belt in 2023, I will do my best to share.

1. Did you stay up to see the New Year?

I did not see 2023 roll in here in the United States. However, a friend in Italy posted the entire shebang 6 hours before via FaceBook. I watched the fireworks and enjoyed an incredible outdoor concert. So, technically I did stay up. This would hold up in a court of law with the right lawyer.

2. Are there any special occasions or events coming up in 2023 for you or your family?

I have four milestone birthday celebrations this year. Three occur in the year’s first half, and the last is at the end of 2023. Last year broke the bank with three weddings and a baby.

3. Do you keep a diary?

No, but I keep a gratitude journal that I hope to become more consistent with this year.

4. How did yesterday differ from January 1st, 2022, or was there n difference?

It was dramatically different. Last year we were in an apartment in Pennsylvania. It was raining, and I took down all of my decorations. This year I am in a new home in another state. The weather was unusually warm and sunny. I went on a 4-mile hike exploring an area of the state park that’s beauty left me stunned, followed by a stroll on the beach where I put my toes in the water.

Gratitude: Be Kind

Photo by Vie Studio on Pexels.com


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