“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.

Continue reading ““Other” Families”

Advertisement

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!

 

50 Years of Being Together!

50th Anniversary Picture

Last weekend, we threw a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party for my in-laws.  As I was planning for the centerpieces and decorations, I found that most craft and party stores had very little for a 50th anniversary party. There were a lot of things for a 25th, but not a 50th.

Fifty years is a long time to do anything, but especially to be with the same person every single day of your life.  Every marriage has ups and downs, but it seems that the key is going through life together.  Together, they endured hardships and pain.  Together, they shared the joys of raising two sons and working hard to make a good life for their family. Together, they created many happy memories with families and friends and together, they have remained.  For fifty years!

I got to thinking…how many people in my generation will get the chance to celebrate 50 years of marriage? Let’s face it. Once a couple marries, there are only two ways to not remain married – divorce or death.

As far as divorce goes, most people in our parents’ generation have stayed married (sometimes for the wrong reasons). The divorce rate is very high in our country and many of the people who are divorced are of my generation.  But I have hope.  I really believe that the fact that many people are getting married when they’re a little older may lead to more lasting marriages. People can get the partying and carousing out early and not want to do it once they are already married.

Getting married in my 30’s was right for me.  No way I was ready to settle down in my 20’s, and I don’t think my husband would have been either. I think you know yourself better as you get older and have a deeper sense of commitment and loyalty.  Many of my friends also got married in their 30’s and their marriages are also going strong.  That is not to say that if you marry young, it will not last, but with everything going on in today’s world, I think people really need to know themselves first and know what they truly want out of life before making a lifetime commitment to another person.

As for the “death” part – luckily, we are living longer and longer which also makes me think that celebrating 50 years is more feasible. With new medical technology and early detection, illnesses are being identified early and cures are more possible.

So, to all the craft and party stores that currently do not have supplies for 50th anniversaries – better get those shelves stocked!  A new generation of golden anniversaries will be coming in the next few decades!!  Get ready!

All You Need is LOVE!

 

Today is a day that is all about love and whether or not you have a sweetheart, there is love all around you.  Open your eyes and your heart and see it.  And feel it. And know that giving love can be just as rewarding as getting it.

I am extremely fortunate in that I have always felt love from God, my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephew,  friends and even my beloved dogs! I now feel a love for and from my husband that is more powerful than anything I could have imagined. It is a wonderful feeling that warms my heart and soul.

But, for many years, I did not always see how much love was around me. I wanted the wrong person to love me and sometimes for the wrong reasons.  I saw my friends go through this as well in our numerous years of being single.  But now that I am older and wiser (I think),  I have realized a few things:

  • You cannot make a person love you.
  • It is never wrong to give or show a person that you love them.
  • Love is the strongest force on earth.
  • Letting someone love you is not always easy.
  • Being in love is wonderful, but it should not define who you are.
  • You have to love yourself first. No matter what.

So, as you celebrate Valentine’s Day (or not), remember those around you who love you not only today, but every day. And love them back. As the Beatles said, “All You Need is Love.”

 

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.

 

 

 

 

For the Girls…

Today, I am thinking of all the wonderful women I have in my life from my mother and mother-in-law to my aunts, nieces, cousins and friends.  While I am not an expert on life or have a degree in philosophy, I do have some tips that I hope will make their day a little brighter. I am very blessed to have such strong and amazing females around me.  Taking the words of Martina McBride…”This one’s for the girls.”

Ladies,

1.  Don’t settle for ANYTHING or ANYONE.

2.  Do what makes you happy.

3.  Believe in yourself and you will be successful.

4.  Love yourself and your body just the way it is.  Do not compare yourself to the altered images of models in magazines and on TV.  They are altered. You are real!

5.  Cry. When you need to and when you want to.  It is not a sign of weakness.

6.  Take time for yourself, especially those of you who are mothers with careers.  I admire working moms more than any other group of people.  You are my heroes!

7.  Find something to smile about each and every day.  Hopefully, you won’t have to look too far!

8.  Do not waste your time with a person who puts you down – be it a boyfriend, friend, relative or husband.  People treat you the way you LET them treat you.  If a person is always negative or makes you feel badly about yourself, end that relationship and move on.  You deserve better!

9.  Enjoy the company of other women.  When a bunch of women get together, there is always laughter, smiles and great times!  GIRL POWER!

10.  Ask for help when you need it.  Women today are expected to do it all from being mothers and wives to having successful careers and running a household. When you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. It’s OKAY!!

 

 

 

No, We Are Not Having Kids

Blue question mark symbol

Gasp! What????

Society has been accepting of many things in recent years – women in combat, gays in the military, same-sex marriages, adopting children from other countries – yet the decision for couples not to have children is still something that causes people to visibly crinkle up their faces in disbelief. How could you not want to be a parent? Why wouldn’t you want children?  Don’t you want to be a mother/father? Don’t you want feel life inside of you? Don’t you want a little one to call you “mommy/daddy?” Don’t you want someone to carry on your legacy?

The answer to these questions (for me) is NO.

I knew I did not want children when I was in my 20s.  While I adored spending time and playing with my little cousins, niece and nephew, motherhood was  not something I wanted for my future.   When my friends got married and started having children,  I was truly happy for them, but could not relate to their yearning to be a parent.  As a teacher, I saw the best and the worst of parents.  I saw some people who were meant to be parents – they devoted their lives to their children, knew that they were the parent and not their child’s friend, and truly loved being mothers and fathers.  And then, I saw those who should have taken classes on how to be a parent before they brought children into the world.

When my husband and I were dating and things started getting serious, I knew I had to tell him that I did not want children.  Each time he would bring up  a future together, I would get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I loved this man more than anyone in the world and wanted to be with him forever. I lost many hours of sleep wondering how he would react when I told him I did not want children. What if he really wanted kids? Would my feelings change if we got married? I didn’t think so and I knew I had to tell him…and soon.  One night, we were driving to our favorite sushi restaurant when I took a deep breath and let it out. To my relief,  he felt the same way.  He said that if he ever got married, it would be to build a life with his wife and that if kids came, that would be fine, but not something he was planning on or needed for him to be happy.  Phew! I knew everything between us would be okay.

It’s a shame that others are not “okay” with our decision.  I still get people who question why we are not having children. I now stare at them in wonderment as they stare at me. I wonder why they think it is any of their business and instead of making excuses or jokes, I simply say, “We don’t want to.”  I will no longer give a string of reasons or make jokes because I no longer feel I have to justify why we made this decision.  When friends and family announce they are pregnant, I never ask why they are having kids, so why do people ask why we are not?  I think the worst experience I had was one of my husband’s co-workers said that that there was something “wrong” with a woman who did not want to be a mother (meaning me). That really hurt my feelings.  Even though I knew there was nothing wrong with me, I still felt a sting in my heart.

People need to realize that parenting is not for everyone. Some of us are perfectly happy being wives, daughters, friends and aunts. We are fulfilled and joyful and content. So, the next time you think that there is something wrong with a couple that does not want children, know that are doing what is right for them. And their future.

A List of Loves

List of Loves 001 List of Loves 002

The first man to ever give me flowers and candy for Valentine’s Day was my father.  I remember waking up on Valentine’s Day morning and running down the hall  to find a giant heart filled with Russell Stover candy for my mom and two little hearts of candy, one for my brother and one for me.  We would anxiously tear open the red cellophane covering the box of sweets and could look, but not eat any until we got home from school. No sweets before lunch was a rule in our house.

As I grew older, my dad would still get me little candy hearts and sometimes flowers and stuffed animals, especially when I was not dating anyone on Valentine’s Day, which was most of them (the little bear in the picture above is from my dad!).  Looking back, my dad was being really sweet and possibly trying to fill the void of my not having a Valentine to share the day with. I spent most of my Valentine’s Days with my friends, getting  dressed up in red or pink (to keep up with the colors of the holiday) and enjoying a night of dinner, drinks and dancing.  One year, we decided to go to Atlantic City to celebrate. Now THAT was good time!!

One year, however, I was feeling slightly depressed about not having a special someone to enjoy Valentine’s Day with.  Plus, I was craving chocolate and realized that if I wanted any, I would have to buy it myself. Damn! As I walked around CVS, I picked up a magazine that had an article in it on what single people should do on Valentine’s Day. The author said to write a list of people and things that you love.  Seemed easy enough so I went home, opened my bag of peanut M & Ms, and wrote one.  And it actually did make me feel better.  I found that list the other day and realized that most of the things on it are the same today as they were 11 years ago (except for a few, mainly #s 1 and 2).  I guess that means that the things on my list are lasting loves.

I decided to write a list this year and although it was tough, I narrowed it down to 10 people/things I love.   Here it goes…

1. My husband – The man of my dreams and more.  (Yes, I am going to get mushy!)  He is the most kind-hearted, helpful, hard-working, funny, loving, considerate, patient, romantic, compassionate and honest man I know.  He makes me want to be a  better person and no one had ever done that before.  I fall in love with him all over each and every day.  He is an amazing husband, son, son-in-law, nephew, friend and human being.  He is my best friend and someone I can always count on to make me laugh or smile each and every day.  He was totally worth the wait and ladies, he never made me cry. Ever.

2.  My Families – I absolutely love and adore my families – my American one (the one I was born into) and my Italian one (the one I married into).  I truly enjoy the people in both of my families and enjoy spending time with them.  I am so grateful to have each and every one of them in my life.

3.  My Friends – I am extremely blessed to have old and new friends who are always there for me.  We have  great times together and they are a wonderful support system. I like to laugh and have fun and so do they! And we always do!

4.  Dogs – Cute, fluffy, loyal and playful. They bring nothing but joy to others and are wonderful pets, especially Westies!

5.  The Ocean – Especially the Pacific and especially in Hawaii, though I also hold the Jersey Shore near and dear to my heart, especially Point Pleasant, Wildwood and Cape May. Going to the beach brings back so many wonderful memories from childhood to adulthood (is that a word?).  There is nothing like the sound of the ocean, the movement of the waves and the smell of the sea.  It calms me. It makes me take deep breaths and realize what a beautiful world we live in.

6.  Food and Wine (or other adult libation) – Really good food and really good wine bring pleasure to my taste buds and my tummy.  YUM!

7.  Elvis – I love his voice, his music, the way he talked, his philosophies and how he was polite and respectful to everyone he met.  I also respect him for serving in the US Army, unlike so many other artists and future politicians who bought or connived their way out of military service.  I also think his musical range will never  be matched. Ever.

8.  Nature  – The sights and smells of fall, a beautiful sunset, snow glistening on the mountains, animals scurrying around in their natural habitats. All of these things make me feel peaceful and realize how small we are in comparison to the massive world we live in.

9.  Music – I wish I could make music or even sing well, but listening to music has always been part of my life.  I can honestly say that I listen to music almost every day.  It lifts me up, motivates me when I exercise, and can bring out emotions in me like nothing else.  Music can make me smile, laugh, cry, gasp and dance like a wild woman.  I love it.

10. Dancing –  Not ballet or ballroom or tap or jazz.  Or even for regular exercise.  I am talking about dancing with my friends and husband. At a bar. At weddings.  In clubs.  I love it.  Thankfully, my husband likes to dance and is a good dancer, because when I get a few beverages in me, I do not want to stop and sometimes I cannot stop dancing when my favorite songs are playedGood times…

There you have it.  My list of loves. After writing this list, I realized (again) how fortunate I am to have so many people and things to love, not just on February 14th, but all throughout the year.

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.

Being Single = Being Lonely? NO WAY!

“People think that being alone makes you lonely, but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world.”  – Kim Culbertson

For some reason, being alone and feeling lonely has become synonymous with being single and this simply is not true.  Take it from someone who did not get married until she was 36.  They are two different things!

According to dictionary.com,

the  definition of alone is :  separate, apart or isolated from others

the definition of single is: only one in number, one only

There are plenty of people in relationships and even marriages who are alone –  emotionally, mentally and even physically – because they are with the wrong people. Many people are in love with the idea of marriage, but not their spouses. Some couples do not even appear to LIKE each other, let alone LOVE each other.  They spend as much time at work as they can because they do not want to go home to their significant other. Or when they are home, they are in separate rooms or doing separate things, taking separate vacations, making separate plans and eventually become separated, apart and isolated from the person who is supposed to love them the most. Yet, they do not want to be single. God forbid. Then they will really be lonely, right?

Although I was single for most of my life, I never felt “separate” or “apart” from others and certainly not “isolated” just because I was not romantically involved with someone at all times.  I was not alone. I always had my friends and family around me. I am not going to lie,  I felt an emptiness from time to time (I hated going to weddings by myself unless my other single girlfriends were there) but not loneliness, though I am sure that people assumed that because I was single, I had to be lonely.  But I really wasn’t.

Some people are alone by choice.  And they are perfectly happy.  Others choose to be alone until the find the person that will bring them happiness and contentment.  They are patient and wise.  We have all felt loneliness at one point or another in our lives.  But true loneliness is not about being alone.  And certainly not about being single.