“Other” Families

Family means different things to different people. For me, family is everything. I grew up in a traditional family of four in the small town of Clinton, New Jersey.  My dad worked and my mom stayed home until my brother and I were in school full-time. She then worked only during school hours, so I had the luxury of seeing my mom before I went to school and when I got home.  We went on one or two family vacations each year, (usually to Wildwood Crest) and spent a lot of quality time together playing all kinds of games – both board games and imaginary ones. It was an amazing time in my life.

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This Year for Lent…

I am giving up Facebook. I don’t post much on Facebook, but I scroll and “like” things.

A lot.  Too much.

Why? Because I am nosy.  Yep. I hate to admit it, but it’s true.  While Facebook and other social media can be great outlets to bring awareness to causes and see friends and families on vacations and other positive things, it can also bring out the worst in people.

Or maybe it’s just me.

As I scroll along my feed,  I have noticed that seeing certain people’s pictures or reading “news” articles tend to bring out my judgmental side.  I don’t want to be judgmental and wonder if I have become more judgmental since I started on Facebook. I’m thinking yes. Also, I  get very angry reading articles on the awful things people do to each other and do not want to see pictures of abused animals or children on my feed.  I know evil exists and that God will take care of them, but when I see abuse, especially of a child or animal, I wish HORRIBLE things on the abusers, which is also not very Godly. Shame on me.

Finally, a lot of gossip stems from Facebook posts.  I do not want to be a part of gossip anymore.  I feel that while I have gotten better about it, I still have some work to do.  Every now and again, I still get sucked into “Did you see what she posted on Facebook?” “Wow. What was she wearing?” “Why would she post THAT?”  Who the heck am I to think these things? Shame on me again.

Since Facebook definitely causes me to be un-Godly at times and takes my time away from doing something productive, I am giving it up for Lent, along with my traditional pleasure food – chocolate.  I am also pledging to read and reflect on scripture every day.  That way, maybe I will have the strength and guidance to be a better person – on and off social media. Who knows? Maybe I will not be on Facebook at all anymore after this experience.  Time will tell…

What are you giving up for Lent this year?  What do you hope to get out of it?

Same Color, Different Dress

“Always a bridesmaid and never a bride” – was a phrase I heard and lived for many years.  After being in and attending over 20 weddings by the time I got married, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted and what I did not want for my husband, myself, my girls, his guys and our guests.

I think our wedding was fabulous and I have never felt so much love from so many people in one room.  It was by far, the greatest day of my life, not only because I was marrying the man of my dreams who has exceeded every expectation I had for a spouse, but because all of the people I loved from my old friends and family to my new friends and family were all together.

I loved planning my wedding, but am certainly not a professional, but there are certain things that I think went extremely well.  Based on my many years as a wedding guest, bridesmaid, maid of honor and of course, bride, here are some thoughts:

1You and your husband should make the decisions.  While we greatly respected our parents’ opinions, what they wanted/suggested, was not always what we did. One of the issues we had early on when planning our wedding was deciding to invite children.  Many of our cousins and close friends had little ones and we had to decide whether or not we should invite them.  In the end, no kids under the age of 13 were in attendance other than our nieces and nephew who were in the wedding.  Our wedding, our choice. Done.

2. Choose a reception venue that lets you walk through their kitchen. I had never thought about this before, but the owner of Perona Farms, where we had our reception, invited us into the kitchen on a day when they were having a wedding.  In other words, it was cooking in action. It was not specially cleaned for our visit. The floors were not greasy, it was extremely clean and there were inspirational signs hanging above from the ceilings reminding the serves to smile and to treat their customers like they were family.   We were sold.

3. Let your bridesmaids choose the style of dress after you choose the color.   We’ve all been there as bridesmaids – feeling horrible uncomfortable in a dress that makes your butt look big or is totally not your style.  It makes for an uncomfortable day to say the least and it shows – in person and in all of the pictures you try and smile sweetly for.   I did not want that for my girls.  My girlfriends are incredible. They are from all different eras in my life and come from all different backgrounds.  My thought was – they are all different as people, so why couldn’t they be different as bridesmaids?  I chose a beautiful royal blue for my color and let the girls try on  different styles so they would be comfortable.  After all, I want them to have fun and feel good about themselves.  My only request was that their dresses were long and to the floor. The girls were very happy that they were able to choose the style and shape that fit their bodies. I also let them choose their shoes.  One of my girls does not ever wear heels and she was relieved when I told her that flats were fine, as long as they were silver.

4 Skip the bouquet and garter toss, especially if most of the crowd is older.  I will never forget my ex-sister-in-law telling me of a wedding she and my brother attended where a heavier, unattractive girl caught the bouquet and the DJ had to practically beg the single guys to come out and catch the garter.  I felt awful for her and I was not even there!  Once I heard that, it was out. No way someone was going to feel badly at my wedding.

5. Enjoy cocktail hour with your guests. My husband and I truly love and enjoy our family and friends and wanted to spend as much time as we could with them on our wedding day. We skipped the traditional cocktail hour with the bridal party and enjoyed it with our guests.  This also made it more comfortable for the dates of those in the bridal party who might not have known many other guests. We did get introduced before dinner which worked out great.

6.  Get the traditional dances out of the way first.   Right after you are announced, go right into the first dance and the dances with the father and mother.  It’s less painful for the guests and the dancing later on does not need to be interrupted.

7.  Play slow music when dinner is served.  There is nothing worse than when guests are asked to be seated for dinner and a great dance tune from the 80s gets played.  I am not going to lie, I have gotten right up from the table to go out and bust a move, much to the dismay of the waiters and waitresses who are trying to serve the food.  Make sure the DJ/band holds the best dance songs before or after the food is served.

8.  Dance! My husband and I enjoyed our wedding to the fullest. We were out dancing with everyone and did not go to the tables until towards the end of the night. Enjoy the party.  Dance to the songs you so meticulously chose! It’s your day!

9.  Step back a moment and take it all in.  This was a piece of advice given to me by several people before I got married and I am glad I took it! Take a minute and stop everything to look around at the people in the room. It is so amazing to see your guests smiling, laughing, dancing, drinking and enjoying themselves.  To know that they were all there for us made my heart swell.

10.  Know that something, inevitably, will not go as planned.  My florist forgot to put the three while calla lilies in my bouquet, there was a major screw up at my hairdresser and cocktail hour had to be held inside since the heat lamps were not working. Even the DJ played a song we specifically asked him not to play. Guess what?  Our day was still perfect for us and all of those little things were just that – little things.  They did not take away from or ruin our day by any means.  Do not let them ruin yours!

 

It’s Their Birthdays!

 

 

Today is a very special day in my husband’s  family. It is the birthday of three family members, one being my amazing husband (Happy 40th, honey!) Now, what are the chances that THREE family members would be born on the same exact day?  Well, birthday sharing seems to be a pattern with me.  My husband shares his birthday with his father and God-daughter,  I was born on my aunt’s birthday, my brother was born on my father’s birthday and my mom shared her birthday with my late great aunt. I think it’s pretty neat that so many people close to me share their special days.

Last night, as I struggled to fall asleep, I started thinking about birthdays and realized a few unusual things.  Six months out of the year, we celebrate multiple birthdays from both sides of the family (taking into consideration our immediate families, parents’ siblings, first cousins and their children).  Check it out…

March – Four birthdays

June – Five birthdays

July – Three birthdays

August – Four birthdays

September – Three birthdays

November – Three birthdays

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is really neat.  Along with our love for family and food, Italian heritage and strong core values, sharing birthday months  is one more thing our families have in common – which is why I will say again that I am so blessed to have been born into a wonderful family and to have married into another.

 

 

 

 

Charlotte

WARNING:  This is a little mushy.

My cousin and his wife have a little girl. It’s been some time since we had a toddler in our family, not since my own niece was two or three, which was eight years ago.  Now, we have Charlotte (and a baby brother on the way!).  She is a 19 months old and I love to watch her play, discover and learn.  Her grandmother was reading her a book and Charlotte would intently stare at the pages pointing at the pop-out pictures with her tiny little finger.  The next minute, she would run around the house laughing and chasing the dog hoping to put stickers on the unsuspecting canine. She has a sweet little voice and utters several words – “book” being one that she repeated often. (It’s no wonder since her mother is a teacher and her grandmother is a media specialist!)  She is happy and bright and ready for the world! It was really delightful to see and spend time with her, which is something we need to do more often.

When I was younger, my family was always with my cousin’s family.  My dad and my cousin’s dad are brothers and we were together all the time. I think we saw each other at least once a month and when we moved closer to them in Pennsylvania, we saw each other several times a week.  I am the oldest of my cousins, but never thought of them as nuisances. I always loved playing with other kids and being with my family.  One of the greatest things we all did was vacation together.  We all love the beach and would venture down to Wildwood, NJ, Ocean City, MD and various North Carolina beaches (where we would get to see my other aunt and uncle, whom I love dearly).  We would spend our days pretty much the same way every year, no matter how old we were.  The kids would get up and get dressed immediately, the adults would also get up and put their bathing suits on and then we would go out for breakfast. We would all eat quickly so we could get to the beach.  While my dad and uncle went into  the ocean with all of the kids, my aunt and mom would sunbathe.  After a while, we would take a break to eat lunch and often go to the hotel pool in the afternoon.  But, other times we stayed at the beach.  As we all got older, I would read a book and relax while my dad, uncle, brother and both cousins would build an elaborate sand fort.  They would spend hours constructing it with a trench in the front to keep out “the enemy” which was of course, the tide.  After most people left for the day, we would sit on the beach at that magical time very late in the afternoon/early evening where the sun goes down and the temperatures dip just enough to have to put something on to cover your bathing suit.  We would watch and wait until the fort was overtaken by the enemy (who always won) and then go back to our rooms, shower, and hit the boardwalk. There, we would enjoy the smells, food, games and rides.  We would go to bed exhausted but exhilarated and get up the next morning to do it all again.  Family vacations are some of my most treasured memories and I hope that there will be new ones made in the coming years.

I have always loved being around my family. They are easy-going and fun and we genuinely LIKE each other as well as love each other.  We like to laugh, play, and eat. We enjoy swimming, the sun, the sand, the beach and of course, each other. We not only enjoy reminiscing about old times, but look forward to making new ones. My cousins and I have entered a new state in our lives. We are all adults and are making our own memories, getting together for dinner and drinks as we realize that birthdays and holidays are not enough to really keep in touch.  Thankfully, the new husbands and wives also get along and have become wonderful additions to our family.

As new generations of my family come into the world, there are new memories to be made.  And I know they will be made together – as a family.

My Friends, My Sisters

Yesterday, I had a wonderful and delicious Sunday brunch with some of my closest friends.  At one point, while sipping my mimosa, I looked at the faces of those I hold so dear to my heart and smiled.  Wow.  We really have been through a lot over the years and yet, we are still close.  There’s been good dates, bad dates, break-ups, make-ups, engagements,  marriages, babies, divorces, illnesses, sick parents and deaths of loved ones. Through it all, we were always there for each other to offer support and encouragement and I know that will never change.

When I was single, my friends became the sisters I never had.  Being in the dating scene, working as teachers and coming from close families, we always had a lot to talk about.  Plus, we were girls! In fact, we became known as “the girls” to our colleagues and families. We would work out together, eat together, go out on weekends together and even vacation together. It might seem like a lot, but always being together felt natural. And we had fun.  Boy, did we have fun! We made many lasting memories filled with lots of drinks, laughs and smiles (and a few incriminating photos!).  While some our other friends and acquaintances were planning their weddings and how many children they were going to have, we single girls were planning our happy hours and weekend getaways. Of course, there were little squabbles amongst us from time to time, but nothing terrible. And that’s not really unusual in a family.  You disagree, or get on each other’s nerves once in a while, and then you move on and you move forward – together.

Over the past six years, many changes have occurred  in the lives of the girls – most of us are married, some have children and I no longer live in the area.  Some friendships do not stand the test of time after moving, marriage or children.  We all know people who have gotten married or had children and seem to completely disappear.  The friendship dwindles down more and more until the only communication you have is through  Christmas cards or text messages around the holidays.  You lose the bond of friendship you had with the person and they end up what they started as, an acquaintance.

As we get older, we get busier and become less available, especially with children and family obligations.  But my friends – my sisters – have always been there for me and I know that will not change no matter what. Why? Because we still take and make the time for each other. We might not see each other as much, but we still talk or text and when we do get together, it’s like nothing changed.  Thankfully, we all married fantastic men and our husbands all get along really well, which makes getting together as couples just as much fun. But every now and then, we do our “girls” thing.  And it’s wonderful to spend time with my sisters.  After each get together, I realize one thing.  They will always be a part of me and my life. No matter what life may bring- good or bad – we will always be together.  I am truly blessed to have them in my life I love them dearly.

Good-bye, Aunt Ruth

Today, I am going to a funeral service for my great aunt.  She was “great” in more ways than one. Aunt Ruth was a cute little Irish lady who married my Italian grandfather’s brother.  No bigger than 4’10, Aunt Ruth used to hunt, shoot archery, bowl and shoot rifles.  She was shy, sweet, reserved and kind and had the bluest eyes I have ever seen.  She would always sign my birthday and Christmas cards with her and my uncle’s names and then write “The Greats” below it. I love plays on words, so I thought that was quite entertaining and always looked forward to getting cards from them.

While I am not only sad about the loss of my aunt, I am also sad that it seems my family is so busy that the only time we are all together are for weddings and funerals.  Is it like that with your family? What do you do to keep everyone together?