Life

Sing Something That Really Matters

I read this story, a while back and with today being Alzheimer’s Day and with thoughts of my mom, I share it with you. While most of you won’t get past the first few sentences, which really doesn’t matter to me but if by chance you get to the end, maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize what song in life really matters to you.

I Was Thinking

By Stan Buckley

In an interview, Amy Grant said that several years ago she was on her way to get on a tour bus when she went by to see her mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. As she was leaving, Amy said, “I’ve got to go sing, mom.” Her mother said, “You sing?” Amy said, “Yes. I sing and I write songs.” Her mom asked about the kinds of songs she sings and if she would sing for her.

Then, as Amy was walking out the door, her mom called after her. “Hey, would you do me a favor?” Amy said, “Yes, what?” And her mom said “When you walk out on that stage, sing something that matters.”

It seems that Amy Grants mom, though not in her right mind, was on to something. If you’re going to sing, sing something that matters. I have been thinking a lot about that statement and it has struck me that life is a vapor and we all have a very limited amount of time on this planet. So it seems that while we are here, we might as well make it count.

If you’re going to preach, preach something that matters.

If you’re going to teach, teach something that matters.

If you’re going to write, write something that matters.

If you’re going to work, do some work that matters.

How many people are just following a winding course, aimlessly through life, wasting precious time, and doing nothing that really matters. All the while, there is a great big world out there with incredible opportunities for someone who is willing to invest the time and effort to do something that really matters.

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Life

Life Is A Dance

Life is full of moments and when you are consciously aware of them, along with their truths and the messages they may hold, you should embrace them like they’re your favorite dance partner and dance with them consciously, thoughtfully, authentically and gracefully because life is truly a dance.

Recently, someone sent me a message, which simply said “ I hope you’re doing well and stay strong by choice”. Hmmm, stay strong by choice. I thought about those words for days and probably even more so during this pause that many of us are taking from our normal lives, whatever that they may look or feel like. I found myself reflecting on my life’s dance with strength and I wondered about the people, who surround my life or who have passed through it, and if any of them have either drawn from or learned from my strength or how many of them may have found my strength to be annoying, irritating or maybe even intimidating. And if I have annoyed or irritated anyone of them, I wondered, how annoying or irritating I would be to them after I have danced my last dance.

This I know for sure, life can be a complicated dance and it takes balance, persistence, curiosity and passion to navigate and perfect it’s dance steps. I have made many mistakes along the beaten path of this dance and I have survived some unimaginable hardships but my history is also rich with people, who have paved the way for me with learning how to be strong, no matter what dance steps I may have stumbled with. It may have taken most of my lifetime to understand and learn from their messages and examples but today, I recognize that they taught me how to stand up every time I was knocked down. They taught me how to face resistance with courage and how, at times, it would be important to glide through the dance of life with grace. They taught me that honesty is a virtue. They taught me a strong integrity will follow you through life. They taught me that real love is unconditional. They taught me that giving is always more life rewarding than receiving. They taught me that kindness and compassion should always be forefront in your thoughts and words. They taught me not to confuse strength and weakness with opinions and how vulnerability is a sign of the greatest strength you will ever embrace and it will be your greatest dance partner. No, I’m not perfect and my dance has not been perfected but I try every day to be mindful with making it a better version of yesterday’s dance.

For me, no matter what anyone may think of me, my choice will always be to find that strength within myself and to be grateful for every moment that I get another day to dance. With age, came more of an understanding and acceptance about myself and I learned to like me and honestly, the last thing anyone needs is to be reminded of their dance mistakes or who they believe you may or may not be. I own everything about my life’s dance moves, the good, the bad and the ugly and I know them all, oh, so well and better than anyone else so really there is no need to remind me of my past missteps.

Some people may not always like me or the things I do or the things I say or my honesty or my intolerance and I’m okay with that. And trust this, at the end of each day, I reflect on the moments of each day where I could have done better or said things differently or how I wasn’t heard, and more importantly, the moments I am so grateful for. The moments that I will always take issue with are the unkind and disrespectful attack with words or the moments of being consciously or unconsciously ignored and not heard. I have danced with more arguments in my lifetime then I care to remember or care to admit to and some have been downright ugly. I have learned from those moments and it’s when the disagreement takes on an ugly dance of it’s own and where it comes to the point that you have lost the ability to hear or listen to each other’s voice respectfully or the ability to be open minded or reasonable, that is where I find the best retreat, for me, is to just walk away. A disagreement with a goal of proving yourself right is never one that is done consciously or one you will win but if you listen to the whisper, “rise above it”, you learn walking away gracefully is the most peaceful, alternative dance move.

The truth is we are so deeply immersed in the noise of contemporary life and we are very quick with remembering and reminding others of the bad dance moves they may have made in their lifetime and yet, we seem to struggle with celebrating the best dance moves of our lives or of others. The questions I find myself asking quite often is how did we become a world that believes it’s openly acceptable to disagree in the most abusive, disrespectful, arrogant and cynical manner? When did we become a world so tolerant and acceptant of such bad behavior?

I remind myself, quite often, that I have less time left in this dance, then I have already danced and I want to dance the rest of my life honestly, consciously, lovingly, authentically, unapologetically and more importantly, I want to live a life surrounded by people that I don’t have to hide from. I know that I am not done with this dance and I have so much more to do, so much more to give, so much more to teach, so much more to share and so much more of a dance to dance so why would I want to waste it on the unimportant things that matter the least to my life’s dance. My only hope is that when I have danced my last dance, it is the good and the great stories of my life’s dance that I am remembered for and that they are shared and honored for many years to come.

Life is a dance. I hope you learn to embrace the moments that give you the greatest strength, love, courage, compassion, authenticity and grace. I hope with every rhythm of the beat that you feel in your heart and soul and with every step of life that you get the chance to dance, I hope you dance and I hope you stay strong doing all of it…by choice.

In this video, I may have stumbled and I may have made a few dance move mistakes along the way but I rose to the occasion, I stayed strong and I will always celebrate this moment of my life because life is truly a dance.

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Moments, Truths and Promises

Another year, another forty day journey and after these forty days, yet again, life has taught me even more about myself, people and the world. As I came off this journey, I found myself reflecting on what my initial intentions were, what had I learned and the realization that the journey never ends. This year, I wanted to understand more about moments. Holy Moments, that is. So here goes my story on how I got to my moment that was filled with truths and promises.

There are some things that I read or hear that just hit home and Day 8 of my journey began with listening to Matthew Kelly talk about the state of our current world and how it’s filled with many blurred lines. He says that for most, it is much easier to live in the gray than it is to admit there is a black and a white. He went on to say, there isn’t anyone who likes being lied to and yet in today’s culture, many have an increasingly casual relationship with the truth. But here was my moment, there’s a connection between truth and happiness and as our relationship with the truth becomes more casual, more slippery, as we continue to cross that line, for whatever reasons and whatever excuses we make for ourselves or justifications, not only are we erasing the line between the truth and lies, we’re actually erasing the line between happiness and misery. Let that sink in for a bit, along with an honest and real look at the current state of the world. There certainly is a direct connection between truth and lies and happiness and misery but it were the questions he asked that really made me think. What role are we willing to give truth in our lives? Do we want to put truth on a throne in our lives when it’s convenient and throw truth in the closet when it’s inconvenient? It reminds us of the importance of living in truth, especially when it comes to our happiness.

For me, it took a life changing moment where my personal relationship with the truth became something that eventually would define me. It became something I am consciously aware of and sometimes consumed by it. Some say, at times, I can be brutally honest and other times, mute and maybe there’s some truth in both. Sometimes I will call you out on the lie and then there are times I won’t give the lie any life and I just walk away, silently. A casual relationship with the truth doesn’t have a place in my life. Maybe it did once but not anymore. For me, when it comes to the truth, there is no gray, it’s simply just black and white. To some, it may seem harsh but I just like keeping it real. I like living life in that space and fake or being untruthful just doesn’t work for me. But here’s the thing, it was the thin line between happiness and misery that made me think even more…if you’re living a life of misery, does that mean you’re living a life of lies? Hmmm…

Then in the middle of my journey, something unexpected happened to someone that not only matters to me but to a lot of other people. There were moments of some chaos, a lot of concern, a little panic and a bit of confusion. There were moments where I felt challenged and I thought I was being called upon to show my strength, courage, leadership and capabilities. There were moments where the people that surrounded me showed the true colors of their character. There were moments where some showed that they cared and were supportive. There were moments where some showed how selfless they were and just rolled up their sleeves and stepped up and stepped in.

Unfortunately, there were many who fell into the category of the selfish and the self centered. You know, the group we call, “it’s all about me”. There were moments where I felt they were waiting for me to fail. There were moments where they tested my patience. However, it were in those moments of pure silence, where I knew this wasn’t about me, it was about taking care of business for someone else. Each day I would sit quietly with my thoughts and I would ask Him to please give me the strength and guidance towards what was right. I felt he was telling me I had to rise above it all. I had to stay focused. I had to push myself to get through it all. I had to dig in and take control. I just knew I couldn’t fail someone, who never failed me but I found myself wondering…am I being tested? Would this be considered a Holy Moment?

It was during Holy Week where I found myself reflecting, quite often, about people and still not fully understanding what was a true Holy Moment. And there it was, in just the right moment and in black and white, a story about how Holy Moments have an incredible power. It said the definition of a Holy Moment is where you set aside your self interest, where you set aside what you feel like doing and you have a conversation with God and you say, “Alright, God, what do you want me to do in this moment?” And then you do exactly what you feel God is calling you to do in that moment. That’s a Holy moment. And they tend to be filled with kindness and love and generosity and patience and thoughtfulness and courage. Holy Moments are filled with all of these things and they are so incredibly attractive. It’s when you keep doing this over and over again that people realize…”Wow, this is a part of who this person really is.”

When I read those words, I recognized that not only did I have a few Holy Moments over those days and weeks, I also had many over my lifetime but still I felt this moment wasn’t about me. Here’s the thing, those words described and reminded me of a few people who have touched my life in many ways. From where I sit, those few, touch everyone’s life with nothing but good and greatness and most certainly, they do it unconditionally. I am forever grateful for their kindness, generosity, patience and more importantly, their presence in my life. I can only hope that from where they sit, they see me and my life in the same light.

Needless to say, I survived those days and weeks and in the end when you receive a simple card of thanks that says, “For some people comfort is just a word, for you, it’s a way of life. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do. You make life warmer and more meaningful in so many ways. There will always be a warm spot in my heart for what you did for me and my family in our hour of need.” It’s in that moment that you realize this is a moment…a Holy Moment.

Today, this I know for sure, even during life’s most challenging moments, we can all find the strength to rise above the blurred lines, to move past our casual relationship with the truth and strive towards being more kind, loving, caring, generous, patient and courageous towards all of humanity. It is in that place that you will find that Holy Moments happen more often and trust this, when you surround yourself with the people who truly care about you and they grace your life with nothing but kindness, love and unconditional support, be grateful for each and every one of them. They are a gift of promise to bring good to your life and it’s when you just silently stand still…grace with find you. Promise.

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Holding Patterns

“I am choosing to show up and nurture every part of me that needs love, healing and support.” ~ Alex Elle

I have always been a firm believer in the poem Reason, Season or A Lifetime and it was the Daily Encourager email about Holding Patterns, which ironically, I received on my birthday, that only reaffirmed my belief that things, circumstances or people often come into our lives for a reason, maybe for a season and sometimes for a lifetime. I now begin each day by reading the passage and saying the prayer at the end. I share it with you and may we all journey wisely and never lose our faith when we encounter a holding pattern season.

Namasté.

Holding Patterns

Many times, God will allow a painful situation or a painful circumstance in our life to “swallow us up.” This season in our spiritual growth is a “holding pattern”. We can’t move to the left or the right. All we can do is sit, like Jonah sat in the belly of that great fish, so God can have our undivided attention and speak to us.

God put Jonah in a “holding pattern” because He needed to speak to his heart. Jonah was all alone. There were no friends to call, no colleagues to drop by, no books to read, no food to eat, no interferences, and no interruptions. He had plenty of time to sit, think, meditate, and pray.

When we’re deep down in the midst of a difficult situation, God can talk to us. When He has our undivided attention, He can show us things about ourselves that we might not otherwise have seen.

A few of God’s holding patterns:

• When you are sick in your physical body and you have prayed but you are not yet healed, you are in a holding pattern.

• When you are having problems with your children and you have put them on the altar, but God has not delivered them yet, you are in a holding pattern.

• When you have been praying for a loved one to return to God, and they have not come back yet, you are in a holding pattern.

• When you are in a broken relationship and you have given it over to God, but it has not been restored yet, you are in a holding pattern.

• When the doors slam shut before you can even knock on them, you are in a holding pattern.

When we are deep in the belly of a difficult situation, there are no interruptions. God has our undivided attention. All we can do is sit, think, meditate, and pray. Like Jonah, we cannot run from God, because there are no mountains that are high enough, valleys that are low enough, rivers that are wide enough, rooms that are dark enough, or places that are hidden from Him.

We must remember to praise Him while we’re waiting, remember three things:

• The pattern has a purpose.

• The pattern has a plan.

• The pattern has a process.

So stop struggling and start listening, praying and trusting. He’ll keep you right where you are until you can clearly hear Him say, “I love you.”

Suggested Prayer: Father, forgive my unbelief. I know you love me and I will come to see the benefit of everything in my life, even this holding pattern, and the manifestation of my Good is assured through You. You have planned nothing for me but victories and I am ready to receive them regardless of how difficult the path.

“When you follow your heart, you follow God, and you’ll find your own path to your own deepest peace and happiness.” – R Hauser

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Walking Away

“If you want more in your life, more connection, more meaning, more fulfillment, you have to shift your attention to something deeper and truer. It will be from that pure and sacred place that you can attract more goodness in your life.” ~ Oprah

It’s very sad when the people we want to feel the closest to are separate from us. There are times that the image of extended family sitting or standing around for any type of gathering is portrayed to be an ideal scenario but it can be a nightmare for many. You can feel trapped in a box of others fixed opinions, reactions and judgments.

For some time now, I have been on this journey of trying, with every ounce of my being, to create peace in my life and this I know for sure, if people or environments don’t feel welcoming, comfortable, no longer familiar or more importantly, like home, I am extremely comfortable with walking away and trust this, there are no hard feelings. I have become comfortable enough with who I am and the choices that feel right for me. At this stage of my life, I owe nothing to anyone, except myself. I have learned to always follow my gut and my heart, along with seeing and hearing with the eyes and ears that God has gifted me. They all allow me to feel and see the genuine and real in myself and the people around me.

I have learned to listen to God’s whisper and it will always be His silent voice that will direct me as to when it is time to walk away. That’s what you do when the negative forces of others attempt to invade your space. It’s what you do when you have had enough with being taken advantage of or disrespected or drained not only physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You walk away and you focus on what’s meaningful to your life. It’s called self care. It brings so much more meaning to your life.

As I walk away, it will always be with forgiveness in my heart, along with silently wishing you peace but before I walk away, I offer these words of wisdom to the unconscious. Know this, you’re not entitled. Stop expecting. Stop assuming. Stop being defensive. Stop complaining. Stop judging. Stop taking people for granted. Mind your business. If it’s not your story to share, don’t share it. You also may want to consider waking up because you’re missing out on the beauty of the world, a good life, the people that truly love you and above all, always say thank you for another day and the blessing, along with the opportunity to be consciously alive.

Be grateful. Be humble. Be loving. Be considerate. Be kind. Be hopeful. Rise above it all. Build each other up. Be unique. Be bold. Be truer. Embrace each other. Life is too short to attract, want or expect anything less than goodness in our lives.

As always, just continuing to keep it real in 2019 and shifting my attention, along with my intentions to all things that bring goodness to my life.

Happy New Year!

Awareness, Believe, Easter, Faith, Family, Giving, God, Hope, Life, Love, Thoughts, Truth, Uncategorized

A Forty Day Journey

“Time directs, heals, teaches and leads hearts to love. Be patient with yourself and with others.” ~ Matthew Kelly

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For the last few years, I have participated in Matthew Kelly’s, The Best Lent Ever. Forty days of absolute awareness, being present and working towards becoming the best version of yourself and learning how to be perfectly yourself. To be honest, some days were more challenging than others and there were days where I failed miserably at becoming a better version of myself and I haven’t quite found my perfect self. It’s not perfection that I am looking to attain, it is being perfectly happy with being who I am and not how anyone else wants or expects or wishes me to be. The last week was probably the most challenging and yet eye opening and extremely telling. It was Holy Week and it started off with the passing of my 94-year-old aunt (my mother’s sister), who went home peacefully to the Lord and her husband on Palm Sunday and the week ended with her burial and a celebration of her life on Holy Friday. It was a week of reflection, along with constantly reminding myself of the importance of being in the present moment, shutting out the chatter and being fully aware of my surroundings. I believe the readings at her mass, at the luncheon and in a booklet her children put together truly summed up who Aunt Josie was as a person, a sister, a wife, a mother, a aunt, a grandmother and great-grandmother and as a friend but more importantly, a devoted child of God and the church. The piece that struck me the most was talking about how non-judgmental she was. She lived a life without any judgment of anyone and she would extend her hand of kindness, love and support to anyone and everyone who crossed her path.

I sat at her funeral luncheon thinking about all of the opportunities where we never take advantage of telling the people we love, while they are alive, how thankful we are for all the guidance, love and support they have added to our lives. Aunt Josie is one person, I am not sure I ever properly thanked for all of her love, support and non-judgment of me. She was there for me many times, guiding me with her kindness and her unconditional love. My heart tells me she just knew how I felt but I did take the opportunity that day, to sit with my Aunt Jean to talk about our family and some questions I had about the past. We also talked about how over time, the dynamics of our family has changed and the realistic reasons as to why change is just a natural progression of life. The conversation at one point became emotional but I knew I couldn’t walk away from her without taking a moment to thank her for her role in my life. She was yet another person who never let judgment be a part of her words, feelings and thoughts, especially about those she loved. She is from the generation of those that understood family loyalty, respect, trust and unconditional love. They believed being there for those that you love was just a given and something that was never questioned. I call them “the just do” generation. They understood boundaries and truths. More importantly, they understood the meaning of being a true confidant and if it wasn’t their story to tell, it was never to be repeated. I walked away from our conversation maybe not getting all the answers to my questions but with a new-found respect and admiration for my aunt and the code that she continues to honor…it’s called family loyalty. Maybe some things in life should never be questioned and maybe there are no real answers and maybe you just need to respect, honor and accept what was in the past and hearing anything different, really wouldn’t change a thing.

Then this morning, while reading my favorite Sunday Paper blog by Maria Shriver, there it was, yet another reminder talking about how we should honor people while they are alive and letting the people we love know they are enough. The article asked questions that made me think…why do people in life rarely see themselves as others see them? Why are they rarely recognized for their powerful legacies while they are still alive? Why are they rarely told how much they are truly loved? Then there was Matthew Kelly’s final video, from The Best Lent Ever, he spoke about resurrection and some of his thought provoking questions and thoughts…what part of your life needs resurrection? What part of your life needs to be resurrected? Because we all have one, every year. You might have the same one three years in a row. You might have the same one ten years in a row. You might have the same one twenty years in a row. He goes on to say, some of our biggest challenges, some of our biggest problems, some of our biggest crises, some of our biggest obstacles – they take more than a year to solve, to change, to heal. The real question is: Do you believe? Do you believe that it’s possible? Do you believe that whatever mess you’ve got yourself into or however bad the situation is in your life or whatever tragedy or challenge it is that needs to be resurrected in your life…do you believe that God is willing and able to resurrect it? Whew, a lot more to think about beyond these forty-days.

My original plan for this forty-day journey was to make time each day to be still, silent and in solitude. I wanted to use the time to reflect on my life…one moment at a time. Each day, I walked away from those moments with a word or a thought. Something that had personal meaning or reflected something about myself or life in general. I knew I wanted to take those words and thoughts and do something with them. Something simplistic and not complicated and out of that came the video below…My Forty Day Journey.

Today and everyday, I hope you take a moment to reflect on the real meaning of life. I hope you get the opportunity to thank someone who has had a significant impact on your life and to tell them how grateful you are that they have graced your life with their presence, their love and their understanding. I also hope you come to believe and know that you are enough and celebrate life every day…your own life and the life of those that you love and who truly matter the most to you.

Happy Easter and as Matthew says, if you are to find lasting happiness in this ever-changing world, it will be as your own wonderful self…the best version of perfectly you.

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The Gifts From The Love I Lost

Who knew nearly a decade later the love you lost could possibly be your last sweet love and yet today, it’s still one that is so difficult to talk about without getting emotional, without your voice cracking and without stumbling over your words. Who knew the person, who some questioned as you possibly selling yourself short, would turn into that love you find yourself, regrettably, thinking you should of worked harder at mending and one you should have never walked away from. It’s in those quiet moments that the memories of that kind of love show up unannounced and there are times those memories come back with a haunting vengeance. There is no clear history button and there’s no shutting the emotion out. You start to pointlessly replay events in your head, ceaselessly analyzing, obsessively scrutinizing your actions and wallowing in some regret.

While I truly understand, I only have the power to change the present moment, I often think incessantly about the past and start wondering if I only had the awareness of being in the present moment back then, would it have turned out differently? It took me years to learn and I’m still learning the importance of being present to receive love, and to feel appreciation and gratitude. In those moments of reflection, I now realize so many opportunities were lost because I wasn’t living in the moment. I have learned that being present is about getting real and continually digging out the buried wounds that are hidden under layers of a very protective shell. With every life encounter, I am learning how to become still long enough to take a pause, to breathe and to ask myself an important question, “What is this life experience here to show me or to teach me?”

While I still have a lot to learn and a fair amount of life left to experience, today, this is what I know for sure…maybe it’s after a good cry and when you stop feeling sad that you’re able to see clearly as to what that relationship revealed to you and what it taught you. You’re able to see the relationship for want is was and as you walk away, you choose to remember the gifts the love you lost gave you. It’s the gifts of their good qualities, their good character and their vulnerable side that no one else knows or has had the privilege to witness or experience. It’s the gift of knowing you will love them always. It’s the gift of the positive influence and memory that they have left behind with those that you love. It’s those gifts that you choose to hold near and dear to your heart. It’s those gifts that you will always cherish with gratitude. It’s those gifts that keep you in that place of hope with believing that one day you will get to feel that love, again and it’s those gifts that you have learned from. But the true gift is knowing that “once love” gave you the ultimate gift of words…”you deserved better.”

So you see, it’s not about the love you lost, it’s about the love you shared and always be grateful for that love. And it’s that gift that I choose to always remember and cherish…we loved each other. ❤️

I wish you joy, peace, health, love and hope in 2018. Happy New Year!

Simply Deborah

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhtFzdpudOk&feature=share

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We All Forget

Outside there is a fresh blanket of the first snow of the season and inside, I’m embraced by the warmth of my pajamas, a hot cup of coffee and my Sunday morning reading. I’m reading stories about what you need to do to prepare the way to what is really coming during this season by Matthew Kelly to getting your priorities in check by Maria Shriver but it was the one minute video by Tony Robbins regarding “what really living is” that caused me to pause and remain still as I absorbed his words and thoughts. While all of their words weren’t anything that I hadn’t thought about before, it was when I pulled all three of their thoughts together that really made me pause and reflect on the where, the what, the was, the is and what’s coming with my own life and I share with you some of their telling words.

Matthew talks about the season and the preparing and somewhere in the midst of all of this, the true meaning of what is really coming has gotten lost or maybe even forgotten. There are weeks of preparing, along with the menu planning, getting the house ready, straightening everything up and making sure everything is right for everyone who is coming. The questions I read are the ones that were so thought provoking…what do you need to do to prepare for the coming season? What in your life needs to be made straight? Are there habits you need to begin or maybe end? Are there some relationships that need a little cleaning up? Do you need to look at how you use your time or how you use your money? Maybe, just maybe, now is the time to take a step back and reflect on what is really meaningful during this season and focus more on spending time with those that are really important to your life.

While reading my next piece, Maria reminded me of all of the people who lost everything during this year’s hurricanes and wildfires. She wrote about the many people who lost everything they own. Everything they worked their whole lives for. In a moment, they lost it all. In a moment, everything can be gone and everything can change. A moment can make all the difference. She wrote about prioritizing in those moments and it made me think about what would be my priorities. What would I grab first and who would I call? Do I know what I would say if I only had a moment? For me, this was probably the biggest question…do I have someone who will check on me and be there for me? I would like to think and hope that I know who they are and that they would be there for me in a moments notice. I know what I value and I know what I would grab first. For me too, it would be the things that have the most meaning to my heart. It would be the things that remind me of my family, love and hope. Her words just reinforced in me that life is a series of moments and we should never wait for those devastating moments to remind us of who and what is important to our lives. Don’t wait for those moments to say the things you need to say. Don’t spend a lot of moments accumulating a lot of stuff because in those moments, they really aren’t going to matter.

And lastly there were Tony’s words, “When do people really start to live? The answer…when they face death.” He goes on to say it’s only then that all of a sudden everything in your life gets reprioritized. You start thinking about who you would call. What would you say? What truth would you tell? What would you share with someone that you never shared before? What kind of gratitude would you have for one more day? How would you treat people? What would you cherish the most if it were the last week of your life? The most eye opening and yet simplistic statement he made, “We all forget that there is something coming for all of us…it’s called death. And rather than thinking of it as gruesome, maybe it can be a counselor.” Wow!

Their words hit something deep within me and reminded me of one of my favorite Oprah lines…”I have less time left here on this earth than I have lived.” Those profound words have taught me I have no time left to waste on people nonsense or chatter that is none of my business. I have lost a lot over the years and at the same time, I have gained a tremendous amount too. I have gotten to a place in my life where I know and believe that God has something more in store for me and I am curious and excited to find out what that is. When I think about how much of my life has been spent on the not so important stuff, it’s time lost that I will never recover. I can’t change any of the mistakes I have made and this I know for sure, even with the many mistakes, I know who I was yesterday and I am good with who I am today. In the last few years, I have spent quite a bit of time in the classroom of silence with myself and God. At first it was uncomfortable because it forced me to confront both myself and the pain head on. But it’s been through that solitude that I have been able to find hope in the little moments and I am able to see hope in the bigger pieces of my life.

I find myself asking quite often, why would anyone what to live life any other way than with a heart filled with gratitude, peace, love, grace and hope. Maybe, just maybe, more than ever before, we all need to make that call of gratitude, hope and love. Because life is too short and we never know when it’s going to end. That’s what I’m thinking about on this beautiful, snowy Sunday morning. And before we all forget…it is the season of giving, of love and of hope.

Peace,

Simply Deborah

Believe, Christmas, Dreams, Forgiveness, Giving, God, Hope, Life, Life Experiences, Love, Relationships, Thoughts, Truth

Hope, Dreams and Love

This past week, I found myself surrounded by some disagreements, the spitting of hurtful words that included disgust, annoyance and hate, along with many stories about violence, sexual harassment, death and a lot of lying. The thing that really throws me off balance are the avoidable hurtful words and actions that come from the people you love and care about the most. You find yourself struggling to find answers and peace within yourself. I’m not sure about you but for me, when I’m off my game it effects every part of my being and it’s hard to hide and move past the hurt.

It’s only in the quietness and the stillness that I able to find the answers and forgiveness that work for me and this Sunday morning is no different than any other Sunday morning. It’s about reflection. It’s about stillness. It’s about being present. It’s about hope. It’s about dreams. It’s about love. It’s about the season. Sometimes life happens and sometimes it’s tricky to navigate the unexpected and sometimes we forget everything we do have in our life to be grateful for.

This I know for sure, in a world that sometimes feels like it’s filled with such hopelessness and in the midst of life’s many ups and downs…be kind to one another. Be aware of the importance to pause, breathe and understand boundaries. Be respectful of one another. Be loving to each another. Be mindful that it’s in those trickier life moments when the unexpected can take away those precious moments to be all that we can be to each other. We were all given the gift and ability to hope, dream and love…maybe, just maybe we need to plant them deeper in our hearts, in our thoughts and in our words.

That’s what I’m reading and thinking about this Sunday morning. Hope, dreams and love…the greatest gifts God gave each of us. Spread and give of them, freely and generously. After all, it is the season of hope, dreams and love.

Awareness, Compassion, Life Experiences, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Thoughts, Truth

It’s Just Wrong. Period.

I find myself struggling with how sexual assault or physical or verbal abuse of any kind or at any level have become normalized or are attempted to be justified or considered acceptable behavior or are being defended in many ways, shape or form and in some circles, thought to be humorous. For me, it will always be absolutely unacceptable behavior, disgraceful, despicable, appalling, dangerous, shameful and it ultimately diminishes who we all are as people when we become so accepting and tolerant of such inappropriate behavior.

Here’s a thought, maybe, just maybe we should be embracing, applauding and supporting every woman or man, who have found the courage to finally come forward and speak their silence, truth and pain. And maybe, just maybe we should consider being grateful and thankful that it’s not our son or daughter or ourselves that have lived with the pain, the shame, the manipulation, the lies and the silence for so many years. Or maybe it is and they just haven’t found their own strength or voice or courage to speak their own story…yet.

In this place we call life, I have learned that there is a story behind every face. A story that if you listen closely, carefully, compassionately and without judgment, their story may break your heart (myself included). I have also learned that before you judge or speak, you need to pause, take a breath and take a moment to think about what it would feel like to walk in their shoes for a day or two or even years. It just might wake us all up from our own unconsciousness.

This I know for sure, if I have only one purpose in this life, it has always been to teach my children and grandchildren that it is never acceptable to allow anyone to treat you badly, inappropriately or make you feel uncomfortable or shame you, under any and all circumstances and vice versa. While the conversations may seem uncomfortable, they need to happen on every level. They need to be had at home, in the workplace, in the entertainment industry and in all branches and at all levels of government. No exceptions and the message should be strong and clear across the board…zero tolerance with any and all acts of inappropriate behavior.

When we have a choice, I hope we all choose kindness, respect, love and grace. God knows, the world that surrounds us all, needs a lot more love, compassion, respect, consciousness, understanding and more people just doing right.

Period.

Awareness, Diverticulitis, Diverticulosis, Eating Clean, Eating Heathly, Food, Lessons Learned, Life, Relationships, Thoughts

Food Relationships

“Prayer leads us to catch a glimpse of the-best-version-of-ourselves and it helps us to develop the virtue necessary to celebrate our best selves.” ~ Matthew Kelly

Every Sunday morning, I look forward to reading Maria Shriva’s words because I just love the way she writes and how she keeps everything real. Last night, after getting hit with another flare up from diverticulitis, this morning, on so many levels, her words just hit home…”I used to think that I could eat whatever I wanted, for however long I wanted. I was wrong. Bad choices catch up to you. Before you know it, you could be that one that cancer decides to knockout. You could be the person that Alzheimer’s decides to take hold of. Make your health (especially your brain health) a priority. And, while you are at it, get to the bottom of your relationship with food. Cookies are not a substitute for real love. They don’t love you back. Trust me. Candy, cake and Swedish fish don’t either. Rest is critical to your mental and physical well-being, so make time for it. No one else is going to give it to you.”

For me, it has been a six month learning experience with getting to the bottom of the things that aggravate my relationship with food and for a person who has a love relationship with cooking great and delicious food, this has been a challenge. But this I know for sure, I can no longer eat whatever I want and we are given one life and one body…so why abuse it? And there’s no reason why healthy food choices can’t taste delicious, savory and decadent. Trust me, you just have to be consistent, a little adventurous and very creative with making and finding the right food choices.

As my food research and experimenting journey continues and while I am savoring over a liquid diet for the next few days (not!), I share with you just some of the foods that don’t irritate or aggravate my digestive system. I have learned that finding the right foods is not a one size fits all. It’s individualize and your body dictates what your own right choices should be. The real challenge will be in rethinking and adjusting my Christmas Eve menu. Well, at least my own Christmas Eve food choices…that is. In the meantime, it’s back to eating clean and eating healthy and with no exceptions…making my health a priority. That’s what I am thinking about on this rainy, yet beautiful Sunday morning. ❤️

Stuffed Peppers with Turkey, Rice and Black Beans

Organic Cottage Cheese with Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Grilled Organic Chicken and Eggplant on Whole Grain Bread

Grilled Organic Chicken Tenders with Lemon and Cilantro with Grilled Eggplant and Broccolini

Sautéed Organic Tofu with Garlic, Lime, Cilantro and Green Beans

Organic Greek Yogurt Egg Salad Baguette with Arugula and Baby Cucumbers

Panko Crusted Baked Organic Chicken Tenders Wrap

Broiled Citrus and Garlic Wild-Caught Salmon over Organic Baby Spinach

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Lettuce Wraps

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Quinoa with Grilled Organic Chicken, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Eggplant

Egg White Omelet with Garden Tomatoes and Hot Peppers

Roasted Organic Acorn Squash stuffed with Organic Turkey Chili

Creamy Bacon Mushroom Organic Chicken Thighs with Thyme

Organic Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins Cod Fish Tacos with Crema, Guacamole, Spicy Red Cabbage Slaw and Pickled Red Onions

Aging, Believe, Faith, Lessons Learned, Life, Sixty, Uncategorized

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

For the last few months, I have been mentally preparing myself for my quickly approaching 60th birthday, which is now only days away and I just keep asking myself, “How the hell did that happen?” For whatever reason, as I approach this milestone birthday, it just seems like it should be a big deal and yet, I just can’t seem to completely wrap my arms around it and embrace it. But there is a part of me with a small plan to celebrate me, along with my life and to make it last for the next ten years.

For quite some time now, I have been on a personal journey of self-awareness and self-discovery and while it has always been hard for me to celebrate myself, this birthday, I am trying very hard to push myself outside of my safe zone and celebrate the last sixty years with complete awareness, truths, applause, failures, successes, along with a lot of dancing, a lot of cake, a lot of wine and a lot of candles. After all, I do believe living sixty years of my life is a celebration in of itself. My journey has been guided with the help of friends, family and other friends, who are not personally known to me. Every day, I listen or read something from the likes of Brené, Elizabeth, Deepak, Wayne, Maria, Maya and of course, God. I have found each of them to be helpful with guiding me along this journey to be a better person with myself and with the people who surround me.

I have been trying to focus on all of the gifts in my life and to be in the moment with all the knowledge from the life lessons I have learned. I’m trying very hard to embrace this next chapter of my life and while I don’t have a master plan, it’s really okay because I have learned that even with the best plans, life can be interrupted. I’m trying to be accepting of every fine-line wrinkle on my face with knowing that I earned each and every one of them and they each come with their own story. I am trying to accept the fact that with every passing year, body gravity is inevitable and everything eventually goes south. Not unless of course you have help from a little nip and tuck or a little beep, bop and boop to plump things up or a large wallet to purchase some $500 creams. At this stage of my life, I am going in fully knowing that the six-pack ab days may be long gone and my focus needs to turn to eating healthy, endurance, strength, balance and stretching.

I don’t think of myself as an expert in any one area of life but one thing I know for sure life is most certainly a mystery. People will come and go throughout your life. Some will enhance your being. Some you will be able to count on. Some you will love. Some will suddenly leave you for no reason or sadly because of the inevitable. You can end up disappointing yourself and others. People you counted on may not come through but at any given moment, a total stranger can show up unexpectedly and take you to places you never dreamed possible. You can have wealth or enough to live a comfortable life and then with a snap of a finger you can be left with nothing and on the brink of poverty or practically homeless. For me, this is for certain, I have learned time and time again, when you fall, you peel yourself up off the floor, you dust yourself off, you learn, you move on and just know you will survive. Life is indeed a mystery filled with many moments of truths and realities and somewhere in the midst of those truths and realities life can be so magical.

I thought I would share with you some of the lessons I have learned along my six-decade life journey. Some are borrowed, some are new and some are old but they are all lessons learned. I share them with the hope that they may help some of you on your own journey to live more genuinely, to live more consciously, with more gratitude and with less judgment of yourself and others. They are some of the best lessons I have learned and my hope is that we take every one of our life lessons learned as an opportunity to be better than we already are and to always celebrate the life we have. I am certain there could and should be more than sixty but in honor of this milestone birthday, I will leave it at sixty and I know that somewhere over the rainbow in the next decade of my life there will surely be more life lessons learned.

  1. Nothing in life is for certain and the sooner you embrace the concept, the less disappointed in life you will be.
  2. Find every excuse and opportunity to celebrate your life.
  3. Love the age you are.
  4. Stop worrying about what others are saying. At the end of the day, it’s a waste of time and who cares.
  5. Have faith that God’s love never fails and that He is always there listening. Find hope in your faith.
  6. Be grateful for everyone who has loved you. Don’t regret a love that once felt right.
  7. Know there will be times when life will break you and when you think you won’t be able to handle it, know that you will.
  8. Always be kind to your body. You only have one. Learn to love it, take care of it and know that the body keeps score and it always wins.
  9. Know and understand that diets are a lifestyle and not a temporary restriction on what you can eat.
  10. Know that you are the only one responsible for the life you live.
  11. Know that laughter and a good night sleep are sometimes the best cures.
  12. When it comes to parenting, always trust your gut and heart.
  13. Make friends with your children’s friends. They’ll make you laugh and they will always give you valuable information. Pay attention.
  14. Know that physical and verbal abuse are equally wrong. Know that we teach people how to treat us.
  15. Hug your mother, father, children and grandchildren. Tell them you love them with every chance you get. Never take a moment of time with them for granted.
  16. Get smart about money early in life. Be diligent and consistent with saving some.
  17. Know that marriage and parenting are the toughest relationships to master.
  18. Be curious about your emotions and others.
  19. Know that every day is a gift. Be thankful for each day you get to witness another one.
  20. Stay out of other people’s business.
  21. Always choose kindness instead of being right.
  22. Don’t engage in gossiping. Know that it hurts the people you are talking about and will eventually come back to haunt you. When someone shares something very personal with you, always choose to be a trusted confidant and know it’s not your story to tell or share with others.
  23. Know that life is impossible without believing in something.
  24. Choose self-acceptance. Believing you are enough gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.
  25. Spend time alone. Don’t be afraid of it. Know that you will be okay with being alone and some days you will prefer it.
  26. Always say please and thank you. Look for opportunities to be a better person.
  27. Look people in the eye when you are talking to them. Trust that you will learn something every time you do.
  28. Sit down to dinner every night with your family. Put the cell phones away. Turn the television off. Talk to each other. Listen to each other.
  29. Play with your kids. Read to them every night. Make great lasting memories with them. Always make them feel safe and secure.
  30. Celebrate and praise your children. Teach them to feel valued. Teach them to treat others respectfully and with kindness.
  31. Always have an open table and an open mind.
  32. Be available to those in need.
  33. Pay attention to your partner, the one you love. If you don’t, know that someone else will.
  34. Don’t ever believe someone is better than you or you are better than anyone else.
  35. Know that disciplining a child teaches them the difference between right and wrong and taking accountability for themselves. Know that when you don’t follow through on the punishment, your word loses all credibility.
  36. Learn how to turn off your critical and judgmental voice.
  37. Learn the difference between compromise and selling yourself short or settling for less.
  38. Listen to your gut. It knows more than anyone else you are asking for advice.
  39. Practice prayer and meditation. It will keep you in check with yourself.
  40. Never make your work more important than your family.
  41. After years of putting everyone else first, know it’s okay to pamper yourself.
  42. Don’t allow anyone to shame you or diminish you as a person. Set boundaries upfront.
  43. Get good at forgiveness. Don’t wait for someone to die to forgive. Know that you will need to practice forgiveness throughout your life.
  44. Know that control does not equal happiness.
  45. With every chance you get…dance.
  46. Get good at letting go. It’s good for your soul and your overall well-being.
  47. Relax your expectations of others. Don’t expect people to be perfect. No one is.
  48. Learn how to communicate in your own home. Don’t let hostility become the only way you know how to communicate.
  49. Know that therapy is not a waste of time nor a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
  50. Know that it is okay to distance yourself from toxic people, even if they are family.
  51. If your marriage comes to an end, don’t let anyone tell you, you have failed. Be grateful for the love you shared, the memories you made and the lessons you learned.
  52. If you have a pity party, make it short, turn the page and then move on. Don’t see yourself as a victim. See yourself as someone brave.
  53. Don’t let fear stop you from living your passion. Know you can rebuild yourself and your life at any age.
  54. Be brave enough to write your own story and always know it’s never too late to rewrite it.
  55. Be brave enough to try love after your heart has been broken.
  56. Spend time outdoors. Breathe, take it all in and let it calm your mind.
  57. Spend time around people who see you, who celebrate you and who want the best for you.
  58. Know that trust and loyalty are the most important things in a family relationship. Stay connected to that family trust and loyalty and never let anyone or anything come between it.
  59. Take care of your parents when they age. There isn’t anyone more loving and caring to do the job. Remember the sacrifices they made for you.
  60. Always believe and have faith that the best is yet to come. Always believe and know that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XulvnXo6BJk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking, Bucket List, Christmas, Christmas Eve, Cookies, Dreams, Feast of the Seven Fishes, Foodporn, Italian Cookies, Italian Traditions, Puerto Rican Heritage, Self-publishing, Uncategorized

Another Bucket List Checkmark…✓

 “She believed she could, so she did.” C.S. Lewis

Like so many of us, I have a bucket list too and while I don’t live and die by it, there is this feeling of excitement that comes over you when you can place a checkmark next to something on your life list of desires, dreams and goals. There is also this sense of accomplishment that comes with that checkmark. Actually, mine is not a written list but a mental one and I’ve been fortunate enough to mentally check off a few list items from a dream trip to Paris, to a desire of owning a BMW. Wait, this one should be on the nightmare list. The two best days of owning this car were the day I bought it and the day I sold it. Sorry, I digressed. Back to the list…to dancing on stage in front of an audience of 750 to an event planner to a personal chef…just to name a few.

A big one on that list was writing a book. Well, last year, I finally did it and I was published! After many long hours, along with many days and nights of editing and re-editing, my Christmas cookbooks are done, published and just in time for the holidays.

My original thoughts about writing and publishing a book weren’t really about writing cookbooks but more about my life story. Right now, my memoir is on the back burner but one day it will be written because I am a dreamer. It could possibly be written on the heels of my exit from this life or as I approach 60…ahhh, a new decade of life begins in 2016.

A dreamer I am but honestly, very much a realist at heart. I am well aware of the fact that my books will more than likely never make the NY Times bestseller list but it’s nice to believe, to dream and to always remain hopeful. Even with all my very own personal truths, I still feel accomplished and I can confidently say I tried, I did and I was published. It was more about self-satisfaction, self-accomplishments and responding to the many requests from friends and family, who were asking for my recipes. I also thought why not include a little bit of family history because we all know everybody loves a story.

In my first cookbook, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies, I share a collection of my family’s traditional and non-traditional Italian Christmas baking recipes that have been passed down for many generations. I also take you on a personal journey of the history behind each recipe and I have included the precise details behind preparing and baking each one of these delectable Christmas treats.

BookCoverPreviewFinal

 

http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Days-Christmas-Cookies-Delectables/dp/1490581308/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450033828&sr=8-1&keywords=twelve+days+of+christmas+cookies

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twelve-days-of-christmas-cookies-deborah-dematteis/1120806633?ean=9781490581309

In my second cookbook, not only do I take you on another journey of telling the stories behind my family’s Italian-American and Puerto Rican heritage, I also share with you some of the most cherished memories from my childhood Christmas’ and Sunday traditions, along with many of my family’s Italian and Puerto Rican recipes.

BookCoverPreview2II

http://www.amazon.com/Feast-Seven-Fishes-Christmas-Delectables/dp/1502498189/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450033660&sr=1-3&keywords=feast+of+the+seven+fishes

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/feast-of-the-seven-fishes-deborah-lugo-dematteis/1120919738?ean=9781502498182

Self-publishing is not an easy task and it took a small army of supporters to bring it all together. I can’t thank each of them enough for their support, contribution, commitment, guidance and encouragement. A lot of learnings came from this experience and while I am pleased with the end result, along with the reviews and the sales to date, it’s the learnings and the entire experience in of itself that I embrace and know that I will continue to personally learn and grow from.

If you are interested in purchasing one or both, my holiday cookbooks are still available online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Thank you in advance with any and all considerations of making a purchase.

From my home to yours…this Christmas may your home and hearts be filled with the smells, the joy and the miracles of the season.

 Buon Natale

Believe, Compassion, Faith, Giving, Life, Life Experiences, Life Lessons, Relationships, Spiritual, Truth

Someone Like You

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love.” Corinthians 13:13

With my morning coffee, I read this short, yet meaningful, article about finding the Path to a Life of Love. The article challenges the scientific theory of love (the brain) versus the spiritual side of love (the soul). Of course, in reality…the brain is responsible for giving love its physical expression, and ultimately, love comes from the deepest part of our souls. It also references the old pop song, “Love the One You’re With” and while many of us follow a path outside ourselves to find love, the person we should give our love to and who, in return, we should return that love, clearly, is the person we are with every minute of the day, ourselves. Ahhhaa!

While the article guides you on a simplistic version of a suggested five step path…my thought, more than likely this would be difficult for most to do as we are not of a culture who is openly at ease with discussing matters of the deepest part of our heart and soul, especially when it comes to matters of love and life experiences. The steps lead you down a path from believing in love to not limiting love to a few and denying it to others to making the search for love an inward search to seeking people who value love as much as you do to believing that love is a powerful force.

My moment was in step four…seeking people who value love as much as you do. There is this old saying, “if you want to be wise, seek the company of wise people.” The writer states, maybe we should do the same when it comes to love and life…if we want to know about real human experiences, we should seek out those who have walked the path of real life and love experiences and who are willing to share them. He also states that in our society, most are embarrassed to talk personally about truth, compassion, faith and love and this inhibition is part of our own insecurities. Perhaps it’s time to allow our spirit to begin a journey that follows a path which leads us to finding that one person who is wise in ways of love, human experiences and who knows how to live life at a deeper level.

Maybe there is this repressed and deeper person inside many of us, who is just waiting to bust out and just maybe we haven’t allowed or believed in the deepest love of ourselves to be completely present, available and in the moment. Maybe when we do, we will be ready for that someone who is emotionally and spiritually available and someone who knows how to live life with a deeper understanding, with the ability to express themselves fully and someone who values all that life and love has to offer…someone like you…a deeper, loving person.

So on this beautiful Spring morning, while listening to one of my old favorites by Van Morrison…I open the windows to allow the warmth of the sun and the cool breeze cleanse the inside air and my soul, along with my spirit and as always…I remain hopeful and maybe the best is yet to come.

Namasté

Family, Life, Life Experiences, New York City, September 11th, Thoughts, World Trade Center

September 11th…My Story

9-11

For 14 years now, whenever I have told the story of my September 11th experience, I am always asked if I have written or documented it. I had shared my story with a client and she told me she never quite heard the details of that day, described or expressed the way I spoke about it. She asked if I was ever interviewed for a story. I don’t consider my story to be unique, it’s just one of the thousands of stories from that day. Over 2,700 innocent people, which included many heroes of the New York City Fire and Police Departments, along with the Port Authority Police, lost their lives on a day none of us will ever forget.

I only share my story today for a few reasons, I felt it was important to document it somewhere for my grandchildren to read someday and for whatever reason, at this juncture of my life, I found it to be therapeutic to write about it. My disclaimer for this story, for privacy reasons, I didn’t use any of my friends or colleagues names but if any of them ever have the opportunity to read this, I am sure they will recognize themselves, along with the unforgettable and horrific events of a day that we shared. With that said, here is my story…

It was like any other normal work day, I was awoken by the alarm at the ungodly hour of 5am and my normal routine morning regiment began. I was leading a focus group at 10am and I decided to dress a little more corporate than my normal attire of business casual. It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear blue skies…just a picture perfect day with a slight hint of fall in air. As I walked out the door at 6:45am, I grabbed a sweater, as I started my route to the train station. My normal morning routine continued with my first stop at the local convenience store, to buy a newspaper and a cup a coffee. The usual morning customers of the convenience store were standing out front with their coffee and this morning was no different than any other, where one of the regulars would pass a flirtatious remark. I caught the 7:15am train, out of the Springdale station and I was off to my office located in the Financial District of Manhattan.

On the train ride in, I reviewed my notes in preparation of the focus group. Part of me felt unprepared but I knew I would have plenty of time to finish any last minute preparation once I got to my office. Strangely and oddly, for whatever reason, I appeared and felt, more than usual, extremely observant of my surroundings. Once the train pulled into Grand Central it was the normal rush through the crowds of people to catch the express train down to Wall Street. It was the normal hustle and bustle of the rush hour commuters and no one paid attention to anyone, except focusing on their final destination. As much as I loved my position as a Project Manager, I was not a fan of NYC subway system, especially in the hot summer but I loved the excitement, the vitality and the vibrancy you felt being in the midst of it all. It was an adrenaline rush every day. It was my 5 year anniversary mark of working in Manhattan and even with 5 years under my belt, with every subway ride, I still counted the stops…#1-Union Square, #2-Brooklyn Bridge, #3-Fulton St and #4-Wall St…off!

Maybe if it wasn’t for the focus group, I wouldn’t have had my “A” game face on and I would have been just like everyone else, oblivious to my surroundings and just as robotic as the rest of the rush hour commuters. The entire subway ride I felt anxious and I kept watching the time. It felt like it was taking forever to get to my end destination. When we finally pulled into Wall St, the stairwell was crowded with people and as my foot hit the first step, I looked at my watch and it was 8:45am. I remember thinking, you have plenty of time to finish preparing. When I reached the street, I saw what appeared to be paper falling from the sky. My immediate first thought was…is there a ticker tape parade, today? People were running everywhere and many were crying. Many were trying to use their cell phones and I stopped a gentlemen and asked what was going on. He said, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” I thought…how is that possible? It’s a beautiful, clear, picture perfect day. I would normally walk up Broadway towards the World Trade Center and turn down the block towards my building. Today, I thought differently and turned down the street walking towards the New York Stock Exchange.

As I walked, stunned with the thought of a plane crashing into a tower, charred paper and debris kept hitting the ground of my path. I immediately thought, my God, this is paper from someone’s desk. Someone, most certainly, was sitting at their desk when the plane hit. A horrifying feeling came over me as I continued to watch the paper and debris fall to the ground. I walked as quickly as possible to my office at Chase Plaza. All I wanted was to get off the streets. When I arrived at the plaza, it was filled with people watching the burning tower. I was not a spectator and my only focus was to get to my desk, to call my daughter, who I knew would be home with my 18 month old granddaughter. I knew she watched the Today Show, every morning and possibly, she could fill me in as to what had happened.

My daughter couldn’t tell me much, as the media was not yet clear as to what was happening, however, the firemen, police and the port authority police were frantically working their way towards and into the building to begin rescue efforts. While my office was only on the 3rd floor of my building, we had a clear view of the towers. My building had glass windows, which were nearly from the floor to the ceiling. Many of my colleagues were gathered by the windows watching the burning building. I walked to the windows and my eyes saw everything and nothing. There was so much to take in and the movement of my eyes was rapid but what I saw, will forever be a vivid memory etched in my mind. A huge gaping hole in the tower, with massive flames and smoke pouring out of it. I heard one of my colleagues scream, “Oh, my God!”, as he saw someone jump from the building. It was enough to confirm, yet again, I was not a spectator nor did I want to be one.

I returned to my desk and sat there stunned. Everything, till this day, appeared as if it were happening in slow motion. I made frantic calls to everyone scheduled to attend the focus group, to cancel the meeting and to tell them to not come anywhere near the building. Next, I heard a huge explosive sound and it was the South Tower that was hit by a second plane. I was surrounded by frantic mayhem and as I walked the floor of my office, many people were watching live footage on their computers. I just went back to my desk and I had several messages from many family and friends checking on me. By this time, officials began closing all New York City bridges and tunnels, along with mass transit being shut down. The FAA stops, for the first time ever, nationwide, all flights from taking off.

It’s now 9:37am and a third plane crashes into the Pentagon and it’s confirmed the United States is under attack. The emotions that ran through my body and mind, went from shock to fear and not fully understanding what the hell was going on nor the magnitude of it all. As I continued to sit at my desk, a friend called, who worked on Broadway. She told me to stay at my desk, she was coming to get me and we were getting the hell out of here. I sat like an obedient child, with my back straight, sitting tall, with my bag over my shoulder and I waited. I knew my friend, undeniably, knew how to navigate her way through Manhattan so much better than myself. I sat there and assured myself, she was going to get us out of here.

Suddenly, what sounded like a stampede of cattle, my colleagues who were watching at the windows, were screaming and running down the corridors. I could hear the voice of a gentlemen on our management team screaming, “Get down on the floor and away from the windows!” The building began to tremble and there was this rumbling, loud sound and vibration. It was so powerful, it threw me down to my knees. Scared, frantic and overwhelmed with fear, I stayed on the floor and hid under my desk. I was frozen and I had no clue as to what was happening. Was our building hit? Was it going to crumble with me in it? As I quivered under my desk, with a million thoughts running through my mind, I could see out the windows and something was happening outside. Again, it felt like life was in slow motion, as I watched what appeared to be an enormous cloud of billowing, grayish black smoke and enveloped inside of it were particles of debris. I watch this massive cloud of smoke, move slowly around the entire building and embrace it. You couldn’t see anything outside, not the perfect blue sky or the buildings surrounding the plaza. It felt like the world stopped and I was somewhere in the middle of it all, frozen under my desk.

Things went quiet and not a sound could be heard for a moment or two. Until someone yelled, “Get out of the building.” Still not knowing what happened, I grabbed my bag and like everyone else, I ran for the stairwell and this is where I learned that the South Tower had collapsed. It was in the stairwell that I met another dear friend, we locked arms and proceeded to quickly walk down the flights of stairs, heading for the lobby. The stairwell was jammed with people coming from the higher floors. Suddenly, I remembered my friend, who was coming to get me was out on the streets when the tower collapsed and I got weak in the knees and began crying. My dear friend, who I was latched arm and arm with, tried to reassure me that she would be alright. When we finally reached the lobby, as people in the stairwell were trying to pull the door open to get out, there were people on the other side trying to push their way in to get away from the smoke and flying debris, which overcame the building’s lobby. Security instructed all of us to go back up to our floors and the building was immediately placed in lockdown.

My floor was the first floor of offices up from the lobby and quickly it was filled with many employees from the higher floors. My first instinct was to go to my desk and call my children. Till today, I can still hear my daughter’s screams and cries through the telephone, “Mom, please get out of there!” For the first time ever, I knew I had absolutely no control over my life or what the outcome of the day would be for me or the people in my building. I returned messages, to family and friends to let them know that at the moment I was okay and I could finally breath when I learned my friend, who was coming to get me was safe and fortunately, her manager stopped her from leaving her building prior to the tower collapsing.

The group of people that were on the plaza level when the tower collapsed, who pushed their way into the stairwell for safety, were completely covered in ash, they were unrecognizable and all you could see were their blood shot eyes. They were in shock and began to babble about the sights they witnessed and of people jumping from the blazing building. I couldn’t sit there and listen and I began to walk the floor in disbelief and observed so many things and people that will be etched in my memory for years to come. A former manager was sitting, silently, on the floor outside his office, holding his legs close to his chest, in deep thought and rocking back and forth. There were several different groups of men and women sitting in circles, on the floor, in prayer and holding each other’s hands.

I sat in a small hallway, which separated one side of the floor from the other, with my dear friend and we just sat silently, holding each other’s hand. There was a young lady, who had just relocated to New York from Texas that sat with us and we attempted to comfort her. She was worried about her husband, who worked for the FBI and she lost all communication with him. Then again, without warning the building began to tremble, vibrate and there was that roaring sound and as I squeezed my friends hand tighter, she softly whispered to me that it was the second tower coming down and she attempted to reassure me, yet again, that everything would be alright.

Another colleague stood vigil at the window overlooking the plaza, which faced the direction of the World Trade Center. She was beyond worried, fearful and she was frantically trying to focus and search through the thick smoke and debris for her son. Her last communication with him was that he was coming to get her. Another moment and thought that is etched in my memory…how was she ever going see or find him through the thickness of the smoke? I couldn’t imagine the thoughts that were going through her mind about her son being out on the streets. What happened next, I can only explain it as being nothing short of a miracle and a mother’s determination to find her child. It was as if the smoke parted just enough for her to see him on the plaza and she screamed, “I see him!” She ran through the crowd of people on our floor and there wasn’t one person, who was going to stop her from getting out of the building or getting to her son and we learned later that morning that they found each other and were safe.

As time passed, the heavy smoke that surrounded the building and filled the lobby of the building was finding its way up to the upper floors through the elevator shafts and stairwells. Yet, another moment etched in my memory is of the Senior Executive, who walked the floor with a bullhorn, advising everyone that they should consider moving to a higher floor as the air quality of the 3rd floor was not good. Not one person moved. Not one person would even consider going to a higher floor. Colleagues from the marketing group, ripped promotional t-shirts, dampened them with water and passed them around for people to wrap and tie around their mouth and nose. Again, there was silence and we just sat and waited for hours.

It was noon before a decision was made to begin the evacuation of our building. We formed ourselves into groups according to where everyone lived and exchanged home telephones numbers. Now, with barely any communication to the outside world, a decision needed to be made as to whether we would take the stairwell or elevator down. I was beyond frightened to get into the elevator but a colleague convinced me it was the fastest way down to the basement level of the building, which was the only exist being used for the evacuation. I reluctantly got into the elevator but when we reached the basement level and those doors opened, there was a sigh of relief until I stepped out and witnessed what I saw next.

There was a bank branch on the ground level, which had an atrium glass fountain, in the center of the branch that went up to the plaza level. The branch was completely empty of people. Debris was everywhere. The glass of the fountain window was shattered and there was blood. It looked like a war zone. No one was talking and we walked silently as we were lead out the back doors. When we got outside the building, again, it was with complete disbelief as to what I was witnessing. The ground was completely covered with ash and debris. It was so deep, it came up to my calves. Military were everywhere, armed and standing guard. Military vehicles were everywhere. We were directed to walk towards Water Street.

As I walked, halfway down the block, I turned and looked back at what would have been the World Trade Center Plaza from afar and all I could see was thick, black smoke. As I shuffled through the debris and passed more and more military, I thought to myself this just doesn’t happen in the United States. This is what you see on the news, in other countries or in movies. As we approached Water Street, and turned to walk up the East Side of Manhattan towards Grand Central, the streets were empty of noise, moving cars, buses and taxi cabs. The streets were filled with thousands of people walking and for the first time ever, in New York City, the streets were silent and it felt like you could have heard a pin drop.

Across the crowded street, I caught a glimpse of a visiting Texas colleague. We caught each other’s eye and while they welled up with tears, we just gave each other a half of a smile, as an acknowledgement of each other. As we ascended onto the neighborhood near the Manhattan Bridge, again, military were everywhere and a military tank was in the middle of the very large intersection. Suddenly, there was this roar of sound up in the sky and we all knew that air traffic was shut down. People screamed and dropped to the ground for cover. It was a fleet of F16 flying over Manhattan. At this point, the crowd started to disband into several different directions with many either going towards Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Grand Central and New Jersey.

We walked and we walked for hours. So many of us had little to no cell phone service but we all were so anxious to let our families know we were alright and we were attempting to make our way home. At some point, along the long journey and not having the proper shoes on, the straps of my shoes began to cut into my feet, which started to bleed. There wasn’t a store or a street vendor opened or to be found. Unheard of on any given normal day in New York City but this wasn’t a normal day. At some point, I just took the shoes off and walked barefoot the rest of the way to Grand Central Terminal.

It took over two hours to get to Grand Central and when we finally arrived, it was somewhere around 2:30pm. The outside of Grand Central was completely guarded by armed military. Inside, every track gate and door was closed and guarded by military personnel. I frantically searched the schedule boards looking to see when was the next train to Stamford. My former manager and a dear friend’s, husband was part of my group and they lived in Scarsdale, which was a different train line than Connecticut. The next train to Stamford was at 4pm and his train for Scarsdale was at 3pm. Needless to say, he said, “You’re coming home with me. We are getting out of here, together and I will drive you home to Stamford.” We stood in front of the gates for the Scarsdale bound train, anxiously awaiting for them to open. We were one of the first to arrive on the platform waiting for the train to pull in and when it did, it filled up so quickly, the doors closed quickly and we were on our way out of the tunnel. Again, no one was really speaking and I held my breath until we got completely out of the tunnel. A huge sense of relief came over my entire being when I could see the light of day and I was finally on my way home.

Another one of my colleagues, who was on the Scarsdale bound train, sat quietly and kept to himself for most of the train ride. He was overcome with grief when he learned from his wife that a dear friend of theirs, who worked in one of the towers hadn’t been heard from since that morning. We tried to comfort him but in our hearts we all knew this was just a piece of the bigger picture yet to be discovered and faced by many. The train pulled into Scarsdale and we drove to my friend’s house, where we were greeted by his wife, my former manager and dear friend with hugs, tears and sobs on their front lawn. We cleaned ourselves up somewhat, we sat, we talked and we had a drink. As emotionally drained and as exhausted as we were, my friend drove me to get my car at the train station.

When I arrived home, it was well after 6pm and after letting my family and friends know that I was home safely, I took a shower. I felt like I needed to get the day off of my skin. The biggest mistake I made was turning on the television. When I saw the news footage that captured so much of the horrific events of the day, which was repeated over and over again, I just collapsed on my bed and cried. Even though I was horrified by what I was watching, I just couldn’t turn it off. The telephone never stopped ringing that night and at some point the day just ended and turned into the next morning.

My first call of the morning came from my mother-in-law and I just broke on the phone with her. I packed a bag after that call, got in my car and drove to my daughter’s house. I needed to see her and my granddaughter. When we saw each other, we hugged and cried. My daughter took me to a doctor that day, to make sure my eyes and lungs were clear. She was worried that I may have taken in too much of the smoke and debris. I checked out okay but was suffering from post traumatic stress and was treated for it for many months to come.

Throughout the entire day of September 11, 2001, there were many times I thought I would never see my children, granddaughter or family again. Life changed for many of us after that day and mine was with no exception. Fear consumed me and I gave up my dream position as a Project Manager, which required me to travel to Texas several times a month. Back then, I just couldn’t get myself on a plane nor could I ride the train or the subway. I went back to Chase Plaza once after that day and it took my manager to personally escort me there, to meet and hand off my outstanding projects to the new Project Manager and to pack up my desk. I haven’t returned since but I know one day I will…it’s just not today.

I was one of the fortunate people of that day. I saw. I witnessed. I survived and I will always remember.

God Bless America

Believe, Daughter, Dreams, Family, Father, Father's Day, Lessons Learned, Life, Relationships, Uncategorized

Dance With My Father Again

“It’s only when you grow up, and step back from him, or leave him for your own career and your own home — it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. Pride reinforces love.” ~ Margaret Truman

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It’s has been many years since my Dad left us, and with each passing year, whether it is the anniversary of his death, his birthday, or Father’s Day, the pain of losing him may have somewhat lessened but as the years pass, and as I get older, I find I miss his presence more, and more. I miss his voice, his gentle hand, and kisses, his huge hugs, his smile, and his special laugh but what I miss the most is talking with him.

I didn’t always feel this way about my Dad. Growing up, there were many times I didn’t like him but I knew I always loved him. He was a man of few words but his presence was always known. He was a very strict father, who disciplined, and ruled with an iron hand, and I was the “rebel with a cause”, who was going to break his strict discipline beliefs, and during my teenage years, it was my mission in life. He most certainly knew I was going to be his challenge, and I most certainly gave him a run for his money.

I often think of the man he was, and I have come to terms with many things in my life, and I now have a much better understanding of his way of thinking, and disciplining. I wish I would have understood him sooner, as I believe we could have had a much closer relationship during the important years of our lives. If we did, we could have talked through many of our disagreements rather than battling it out.

Today, I understand that he didn’t know how to be any other way because it was what he had learned, and what we learn is what we pass on from generation to generation, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Until one day, someone steps up to the plate, and changes the cycle, and I think that was my mission. While his discipline tactics were not always the best, in his mind, he was protecting his daughters in the only way he knew how, and saw fit. He didn’t want his daughters to make the same mistakes he did but by sheltering us, he didn’t realize he wasn’t allowing his daughters to grow, and learn from their mistakes.

I can sit here, and dwell on all of the bad, the harsh discipline but what would any of that change. Really, nothing. Today, I remember the great things about a man I called Dad until he became a grandfather, and from then on he was only referred to as Poppy. The key thing to remember is how much he loved his daughters, his wife, his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and the things he taught all of us, and more importantly, me.

He was a thin, good looking young man, with a dream, when he left San German, Puerto Rico, to come to New York. I am not sure what he did between the years that he arrived in New York, and when he met my mother at the age of 27 but my good guess, he more than likely was a ladies man, an impeccable dresser, and he probably had an air about himself that appeared intimidating, and somewhat standoffish. That’s my take, and when he met, and married my mother, he took charge to provide for her, and even more so when their daughters came along.

He was a spray painter for many years, and worked for a marketing exhibit company, painting promotional exhibits for name brand products, and services, which were displayed at conventions but his dream was bigger. It was always to own a restaurant, and my mother, who was one of the most conservative people I knew when it came to money, along with being a realist, and nowhere near a risk taker stood by her husband, and supported his dream.

They opened a small luncheonette in Mount Vernon, right on the borderline to the Bronx, and he was in his glory, and stood proud the day the sign went up, and there it was, Dave’s Luncheonette. This happened so much later in their life together but to him it was the beginning of what was yet to come. Remember, he was a dreamer. They both worked very hard, and long hours. They were up at 5am, and at the luncheonette by 5:30am, and ready for their first customer strolling in for coffee, and breakfast at 6am. There were many times during my father’s bouts with his heart issues, and when he was hospitalized that my sister’s, and I had to step in, and open the store with our mother. Oh, those 5am mornings were killers for me. Opening those gates, bringing in the fresh bread, and newspapers that were waiting at the door. Putting on the pots of coffee, heating up the grills, and greeting customers with a smile at 6am. Really, it’s much too early for smiles. The days seemed endless, along with the end of day routine of cleaning the place, and preparing it for the next day. My parents did this for close to 20 years in Mount Vernon, and again, remember my father was the dreamer, and bigger was still his goal.

Over the years, the neighborhood started changing, and after the luncheonette was broken into several times, they moved onto my Dad’s next dream, Dobbs Ferry, and opened Dave’s Charcoal Corner. A bigger place with more counter seats, and probably five times more tables than the Mt Vernon place. Bigger but still only breakfast, and lunch. By now, I had a career in banking, children, and I stood back, at a distance, and watched how hard they worked in the later years of their life, and I only helped out when absolutely necessary. My Dad was the cook, and my mother was the brains behind the pricing, and how to make a profit. No one handled the cash register nor the checkbook but her. She served the food at the counter seats, while a waitress handled the tables, which more often than not were my sisters on the weekends, along with my daughter during her college years. Me, oh, I was known as the black sheep of their daughters. Very rarely to be seen at the restaurant but when I did not have a choice, I groaned, and moaned all the way through it, and went home smelling like a greasy hamburger.

My Dad became known for making the best home fries, omelets, burgers, pancakes, soups, and more. This was the happiest time of his life, and his personality could easily get him side tracked from the grill to have a conversation with any regular customer, which is when my mother would take over the grill with a huff. It was kind of comical, at times but as the years went by, the aging process, and my Dad’s health were catching up. He was slowing down, and while it was hard for him to accept, after a small grease fire, we knew it was time for them to sell the business, and retire. I truly believe he wished he had pursued his dream much earlier in life but he had a good run for nearly 30 years.

How ironic it is that history repeated itself. Who knew my passion in life would turn to cooking, and also, begin so much later in my life. During a visit with our family accountant, he said to me, “You should have taken over your parents restaurant.” I didn’t have a vision back then of cooking, I was working towards a career in banking, which turned out to be a successful one. I fought my father tooth, and nail to not have any part of the business. I had such a dislike for it, and maybe part of it was how hard they worked, the long hours, and while it was his dream, it wasn’t mine, and it certainly wasn’t my mother’s but she was committed to him, and doing whatever made him happy. I have no right to judge that kind of sacrifice, and my point to this story is about all of the valuable lessons I learned from a man, who I battled with for many years.

My regret is that he is not here today for me to tell him, face to face, how grateful I am for all of the life lessons, values, the unconditional love, and the importance of believing, and following your dreams that I learned from him. He taught me hard work is a given. He taught me how to love my children unconditional, and the importance of being there for them through the good, and the bad. He taught me that you never give up on your children. He taught me the importance of family. He taught me to be courteous. He taught me respect. He taught me the importance of being a lady. He taught me the importance of presenting, and representing yourself well, and with class. He taught me that sometimes silence is golden.

It took me many years to realize, and learn the most valuable lesson of all from my father, to grasp every moment because you never know when it can be taken away from you, in a minute, and without any notice. I am grateful that I got to dance my last dance with my Dad on my 45th birthday. It was in his hospital room, just a few weeks before he passed, and I still wish every day that I could dance with my father again, and to hear him whisper in my ear, “I love you, Debbie Ann.”

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While the day of his passing will always be a blurry memory, it is the priceless memory of our life together that will be a vivid one for eternity. It’s an example of a great love, commitment, sacrifice, and no matter how many years that have passed, it doesn’t change the fact that even though my Poppy is not in front of my eyes any longer, his picture is in my heart, and my mind, and will remain unspoiled forever.

“It doesn’t matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was.” ~ Anne Sexton

 

 
http://www.vevo.com/watch/luther-vandross/dance-with-my-father/USJRV0300079

Alzheimers, Bronx, Brothers, Dementia, Family, Harlem, Italian Traditions, Italy, Life, Mother, Mount Vernon, Naples, Relationships, Sarno, Sisters, Thoughts, Uncategorized

My Mother’s Story…A World of Silence

“My mom is a never-ending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune.” ~ Graycie Harmon

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Some time ago, I whispered in my mother’s ear, and I promised her that I would always be her voice, and today, three years after her passing, would be no different…especially with it being Mother’s Day. She lived in a world of silence for the last five years of her life, and her life was not without heartbreak or hardship, but yet through it all she fought for herself, her family, and faced every challenge with courage, poise, and grace. She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and a great-grandmother. A constant guardian, and a woman who loved unconditionally, and for many years after my father’s passing, she fought a brave battle against an awful, devastating disease…Alzheimer’s. A disease that robbed her of her memory, stripped her of her dignity, along with taking away her smile, and laughter. As promised, I am here to tell a portion of her life story, and to be her voice but first a small disclaimer, for those that read this, who may dispute my version of my mother’s life, I ask, respectfully, to remember while reading this story…it’s my story, and more importantly, my mother’s.

Eighty eight years ago, my mother entered this world as Domenica, later to be known as Minnie. She was born, and raised in Harlem, New York on 116th Street by her Italian immigrant parents, and she was one of fourteen children, of which eight were from previous marriages of her fathers. Her mother, my grandmother was not my grandfather’s first wife but she was his last. His previous wives had passed away, and many of his children from his previous marriages remained in Italy, with the exception of three children from his second marriage, a son and a two daughters. They also lived in the same Harlem neighborhood. One half sister returned to Italy, and my grandmother treated the remaining two, as if they were her own, and they ate dinner with the family nearly every day.

My mother often spoke of her upbringing during the depression era, and the lifestyle during those trying times. She would tell stories of her father, and her family, which were verified by my uncle’s (her brothers) in consideration of writing this blog. My grandfather was a Blacksmith back in his small hometown of Sarno, which was outside of Naples, Italy, and when he came to this country he used the skills he learned from working with horses, and to fix the wagons, known as buggy’s. My grandfather also sold watermelons. He would rent a horse and buggy, and go to the blind uncles’ (my grandfather’s brother) store on 107th Street, to pick up the watermelons that were stored there. I always wondered why, besides the obvious, he was always referred to as the blind uncle versus his name, Dominick. Moving on…my grandfather then would proceed to steer the watermelon filled horse drawn buggy up from East Harlem to the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. This is where he would sell the watermelons through the streets, yelling, with what I am sure was with a definitive Italian accent, “get your watermelon here”, which back in the day was called “hawking”. He was once arrested for “hawking”, and was held at the 41st Precinct, known as Fort Apache, and was fined $2.00. During the off season, my grandfather used the horse and buggy to pick up junk, and was considered a junkman, which turned into a successful family junk, and demolition business that was eventually run by my mother’s brothers. She told stories of how all her siblings needed to help out with the family finances, and the meals she grew up on, were known as peasant food. Through all of that, and much more, the family was rich in history, traditions, and a strong family bond that spilled over into the many future generations to follow.

During 1944, at the age of eighteen, my mother, and her family moved to Mt Vernon, New York, and settled in their new home on South High St. Most, if not all of her brothers, and sisters had little to no education, and all of them went to work at a very young age. My mother first worked in a button factory, on 2nd Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Street, which is where she met my father (more on that later), and then she moved on to work for the Corn Exchange Bank. The bank merged with Chemical Bank in 1954, and ironically, 26 years later, I began a career with Chemical Bank, which lasted 26 years. My mother was extremely proud of her daughters’ career, and always said she wished she would have stayed in banking.

My mother was known for having a love for shoes, clothes, along with pocketbooks, and she always dressed well…I guess this apple didn’t fall far from that tree but she knew how to shop for bargains, and she knew how to save money…that’s where the apple did fall far from the tree. She was all of a size 2, and from many old pictures she always dressed nicely, and she was very slender. She traveled every day from Mt Vernon to Manhattan to go to work, and after she left for work, her younger sister was known to sneak into her closet, and she would wear my mother’s clothes, and shoes but she would make sure they were cleaned, pressed, and returned to their rightful place before my mother returned from work. During this era, it wasn’t unusual that most, if not all of your paycheck, went to straight to your parents, nor was it unusual for the oldest brother to take on the role of watching over the family, and to be the disciplinarian of the younger siblings or to be considered the bread winner of the family.

According to the standards of her era, my mother married late in life, at the age of twenty eight. When she met my father, while working in the button factory, he was a charming, and handsome Puerto Rican, and it goes without saying the 100% Italian family didn’t approve of the relationship nor the fact that he was married before, and had a child from his previous marriage. This was unheard of during this era to consider marrying a divorced man but my mother loved him, and her love persevered. There are several version of the story, and one thing I know for sure, at the end of the day, my grandfather approved of the marriage, my parents were married at St Mary’s Church, my grandfather walked her down the aisle, my parents had three daughters, and my mother loved my father unconditionally, and my father most certainly loved my mother. Of course, they had their ups and downs but what marriage doesn’t. They built a life together, and they were committed to their marriage for better or worse, and my mother always referred to the next generations divorce rate, as being an easy out. She said the new generation thought it was easier to give up on a marriage than it was to work on one. Today, my parents would have been married for 60 years, and they worked side by side in their luncheonette business for over 30 years.

They were married on January 30, 1954, and first lived in the Bronx on Wallace Ave, and ironically, when my older sister came into the world during February 1955, and then me, eleven months later, they moved to Wallace Ave in Mt Vernon. Eighteen months later, my younger sister was born, and yet another move, and for my mother it was back to South High Street, across the street from what was my grandparents’ house, into the 2nd floor apartment of my uncle’s three family home. Years later, my parents purchased the house from my uncle, who moved into a bigger home with his growing family, and this is where my parents remained for over 25 years.

My grandfather had passed days after my oldest sister’s second birthday, and I had just turned one, the previous month. My grandmother passed away when I was five years old, and I really have only a slight memory of her, however, I do remember my grandmother living with us for a short time. I have one vivid memory of her standing with one of those fancy brushes in her hand (the kind that were kept on a mirrored tray on top of the dresser) waiving it, and yelling at my sisters, and I, in Italian, of course, for jumping on her bed. After my grandfather died, she would live back, and forth between her children. She was diagnosed with hardening of the arteries, and more than likely today, she would have been diagnosed with dementia. While she lived with us, it was difficult for my mother to watch my grandmother, who would wonder off from time to time, and my mother had three small children but my mother loved her mother, and she did whatever she could to help her, and to keep her with us. My grandmother’s frequent wondering off days, and forgetfulness worsened over time, which required her to wear her name, and address on piece of paper, and pinned to her clothing. After some time, a family decision was made, and with the medical field not knowing what they know today about dementia, along with the care, and treatment required, my grandmother was institutionalized, at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Queens Village, New York. It’s my understanding that it was a place that left you with the memory of it being dreary, dark, and a place someone would hope to never end up in. My grandmother died three months later. I have such a clear memory of my mother speaking so often about this time of her life, and she always said she could never be a part of that decision, and she believed her mother died of a broken heart from being left there all alone.

When I think back about my mother, and her thoughts about own her mother, I now understand the fear, and the panic that overcame her entire being every time she forgot where she put something…she always believed she was losing her mind, like she believed her mother did. Eventually, she resorted to keeping notes as frequent reminders of things to do, and where she put things.

Growing up, my memories of my mother are of a vibrant, hard working woman, loving, and caring mother, and when she became a grandmother, her grandchildren added a newness to her life. She was always doing something from cleaning to cooking, and taking care of the house, along with caring for her daughter’s and husband. For many years, she was a stay at home mom, and those curtains, and drapes were changed, and windows were washed every three months. She had a love for music, and once she joined the Columbia Record Club, she would wait with such anticipation to see what album would come each month. Music was always playing while she was cleaning, and she would sing along with her favorites, from Connie Francis to Frank Sinatra to Jerry Vale. She kept herself busy, and while she never learned how to drive, she walked everywhere or took a bus. Nothing stopped her. There were countless amount of days that she walked with her three daughter’s to go shopping on Fourth Avenue, and she always found a way to make the trip special by taking us to the Beehive for ice cream.

During the summers, she would pack up my sisters, and I, along with lunch, and her beach chair, and we would walk to the bus stop by the 11th Avenue park, and we would take the bus to Glen Island Beach. My mother loved the beach, and it’s probably where my love for the beach came from. Years later, she went back to work to help my father with the family finances, and I remember feeling sad that she was no longer there when I came home from school. Times were changing, and we were all feeling it.

Many years later, I think what kept her mind going, active, and alert for so long was that all of her energy, and efforts went into caring for my father in the last 10 years of his life. He suffered with heart disease, and diabetes, and eventually, kidney failure. He had open heart surgery back in 1994, which gave him a new lease on life for a number of years, and then he reverted back to his bad eating habits, he put some weight back on, and was now back to square one. My mother was relentless with taking care of him, and stood by his side every step of the way, and with every doctor appointment but he was stubborn, and she could only fight his ways of being, to an extent. It was during 1998 that he took a turn for the worse, and we weren’t sure he would make it after yet another angioplasty procedure. It took some time for him to recovery, and I remember on Father’s Day of that year, I found him in a fetal position in his bed, with silent tears rolling down his face. I laid next to him, and we spoke quietly, and he admitted he was scared, and wasn’t sure he was going to make it to his granddaughter’s wedding, which was the following month. Low and behold, the man recovered, yet again, and there he was dancing with me at his granddaughter’s wedding.

During 2000, six months after his great-granddaughter was born, he took a turn again but this time he never recovered, and he left us on January 23, 2001. My point to sharing my father’s health is that I believe this is when my mother’s life changed completely, after the loss of the love of her life, is when her memory spiraled, and eventually, she went rapidly downhill to being completely bedridden, never to see the outside world again. I truly believe taking care of him for so many years stimulated her brain, and kept her going, and after he was gone, there was nothing left for her that could keep her stimulated, and the sadness of losing the love of her life took control over her mind, and being. I often wondered if my grandmother’s rapid decline was also related to the loss of her true love, my grandfather.

It was like watching a movie that I had heard about my entire life, and history was repeating itself for my mother, as it did for my grandmother. She moved back, and forth between my two sisters, and occasionally, spent a weekend here, and there with me. At the time, my sisters lived minutes apart, they worked together, and were fortunate enough that they were able to take our mother to work with them. She would sometimes be picked up to attend activities at the senior center but she disliked it, and complained constantly about going. She lost interest in socializing with others, and especially, anyone she considered to be old. My mother was a woman of few words, and I am sure knowing what I know today, she was scared, and her rock was no longer here to help her with making decisions or to keep her safe. She did however, like being in the office with my sisters, and she would putter around the kitchen, and wait for the workers to come in at the end of the day, and make them coffee. I think she felt useful, and had a sense of purpose. She would sit with them, talk, and laugh, and occasionally play cards with a few of them. The atmosphere of the office was less intimidating to her versus a senior center, which I believe was a constant reminder to her of the aging process.

I most certainly believe she knew what was happening to her brain function, along with her memory, and things were happening to her stability but she didn’t have the ability to verbalize it, and I’m sure of it now, all the unknowns were frightening her. The times I spent alone with her, I could see the fear in her eyes, and the confusion but I did everything I could to make her feel comfortable, keep her spirits up, and gave her the space, grace and dignity she so rightfully deserved. In the beginning to mid stages of her dementia, it always amazed me how her long term memory was intact, and she could tell you anything from back in the day, and yet, her short term memory was non-existent. I think the hardest thing to witness was her unhappiness, sadness, her confusion, her depression, and the angry person she became. For me, at the end of the day, none of that matter, and my way of thanking her for all of those years she “justdid”, unconditionally, with every opportunity presented to me, I treated her like she was a Queen because in my mind, my mother was.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to my two sisters’. Our parents always stressed we could, and we should always rely on each other, and that has never been more true than during our mother’s illness. I lived in Connecticut during that time, and work was extremely demanding, along with not having the same flexibility that my sister’s did with their work. They took care of my mother 24/7, for a number of years, and then the day came when my mother was progressively getting worse, and life was changing, personally, for both of my sisters, and a decision was made that it was time to place her in a nursing home. I remember that day like it was yesterday, and again, in my mind, history was repeating itself, and all I could think of were my mother’s words about her own mother when the same decision was made for my grandmother. How could I do this, knowing how my mother felt, and I too found myself in a place where I wanted no part of that decision. I was crushed, for her, not for me. I was so angry with the decision, and yet, I had no viable solution that in my mind could save her or keep her out of a nursing home. In retrospect, it was the right decision but at the same, her being my mother, I always wished there was another option.

Over the four or so years of her being a nursing home, during each visit, I struggled to find a connection with a woman, who eventually, didn’t know my name anymore or who I was. I would say, “Hi, Mom.” Sometimes she looked at me with a blank or confused stare, as if she was thinking should I say hello back or if she was trying to figure out who I was. I would say, “How are you doing?” and there would be an occasional hello, I’m okay or just silence or a rare, “Shut up!” I would sometimes laugh, and say, “It’s me, Deborah Ann” and sometimes she would reply, “Really?” She sometimes mumbled, and I didn’t get what she said, and it just broke my heart. With every visit, on my drive back to Connecticut, more often than not, I would cry all the way home, talking or yelling at God, and asking him, why? Why wasn’t he taking her, and she didn’t deserve to live a life like this. I was told many times, she wasn’t ready, and after years of watching her go slowly, I finally came to terms with believing she worked so hard all of her life, and she was tired, and she was just resting until she was ready to go home.  

However, my sister’s dealt with our mother in a way I really couldn’t. They talked to her, she mumbled, they mumbled back. She growled, they growled back. She would refuse to do something, and they would say okay fine just sit there. It didn’t matter to them that she didn’t remember things. She was treated with such love, and acceptance. They took her everywhere. They fed her, they changed her, and they bathed her. My sisters stepped up, and stepped in. What mattered was that she was comforted by the warmth of their human connection. These are just some of the gifts they gave our mother. I was in awe of them, and they have given our family a whole new kind of role model to emulate in every part of our lives. I love, and admire them both, and I am forever grateful for what they gave our mother.

When our mother passed, I again was my mother’s voice, and I thanked my sister’s for taking such good care of her, for being her strength, and her courage when she was weak, and for loving her unconditionally. Our mother rests peacefully now, and is back in the arms of the love of her life, my Dad. Not sure I have done her a justice with celebrating her life but this Mother’s Day seemed like a perfect time to tell a portion of her life story. There is never a day that my mother doesn’t pass through my thoughts, and I am sure she is looking down upon her family, smiling with happiness, and with a tremendous amount of unconditional love, and pride. For me, I am so proud to call Domenica Squillante Lugo, my mother. She will always be my hero, my mother, and a woman, who silently had incredible strength, courage, perseverance, devotion, commitment, and an enormous amount of unconditional love for her family.

My Mother’s Day message to my mother…while it has been a long time since I have seen your beautiful smile or smelled your beautiful perfume or received your hugs and kisses…thank you for passing on all your love, wisdom, strength, and courage, which have made me the woman I am today. With this message, I send you this song, which was always one of your favorites, and I can still hear your sweet voice singing the words. I love you, miss you but I find comfort in knowing you are at peace, with your true love, and always remember…I will be your whisper, and I will always be your voice.

 

Family, Forgiveness, Life, Relationships, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Just Let Go

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As I sat with my morning coffee, today, feeling the warmth of the sun, a few tears rolled down my face, as I reflected on 58 years of my life, and family. I openly admit, I am not perfect, I do not always say the right thing, and I most certainly have made many mistakes. However, at the same time there are so many more things that outweigh it all to make me feel so grateful to be alive, and to have witnessed, experienced, and learned from it all.

As I continued to sit there, I read the reading below, which only made me think more. Over the last few months, I have watched from a distance, and up close, the loss, and failing health of dear family members from my mother and fathers generation. While the aging process is an inevitable part of life, it doesn’t make the process any less painful to face when it’s someone you love, and a person who has impacted your life in a small or significant way. The thoughts that seem to get me through the pain is reflecting on the gifts that each one of them have given me, which have contributed to the person I have become, and who I truly am. I will always value, and cherish their gifts, their love, their teachings, and their memories.

I understand that during difficult times, emotions run high, and we are overwhelmed with confusion, pain, loss, and anxiety but I find myself thinking about a discipline we teach our children…”watch your words.” In the grand scheme of things, while I understand we are all human, is it not our responsibility to be authentic, compassionate, caring, loving and forgiving? Especially when it comes to family. Maybe we need to take a moment to think, take a step back, and look at the whole picture before we speak, and “watch our words.” If we did, we would realize that what we were about to say…more often than not, is not authentic, compassionate, caring, loving nor forgiving but judgmental, hurtful, and more than likely, inappropriate.

Idol, unimportant “chatter” has no room or place in our lives, and some things in life, while hard to do, are just this simple…we need to just let go, and begin to repair, heal, honor, respect, forgive, and love each other for who we are…family.

Family and life are gifts, and they are both too precious to throw away or take for granted. Maybe we need to learn or practice to live a life that is more authentic, compassionate, loving, and more  importantly, a life that has the ability to forgive, and just let go.

La famiglia!

How Many Berry Spoons Are There In My Life?

 “I’ll never forgive him. I told him I would never forgive him.”

The elderly lady spoke softly, but with resolve, as the nurse brought her nightly medication. The lady’s expression was troubled as she turned away, focusing on the drape wrapped around her nursing home bed. This brief exchange revealed a deep, deep hurt.

She told of how her brother had approached her bed, accusing her of taking more than her share of family heirlooms following their mother’s death. He spoke of various items, ending with “the berry spoon.” He said, “I want the berry spoon.” For the forty years since the mother’s death he had hidden his feelings, and now they erupted.

She was both hurt and angered by his accusation and vowed never to forgive him. “It’s my spoon. Mother gave it to me,” she defended herself. “He’s wrong and I won’t forgive him.”

Standing at her bedside, the nurse felt her own spirit soften and grieve. A spoon – a berry spoon! In the bed lay a woman given two months to live – just sixty days – and she would face eternity and never see her brother again in this life. Her mind and spirit were in anguish, and her only remaining family ties were broken over a berry spoon.

As the nurse returned to her station she was drawn deep into thought: “How many berry spoons are there in my life? How many things, as insignificant as a spoon, in light of eternity, separate me from God – and from others? How does a lack of forgiveness keep me separated from my family?” She asked God to search her heart. “How many berry spoons are there in my life?”

Family, Foodporn, Grandchildren, Gravy, Italian Traditions, Lasagna, Meatballs, Uncategorized

Lasagna…An Italian Love Story

“As you get older, you find out that true happiness is not in how much you make or how many degrees you have or how big your house is or how fancy your car is. It’s finding peace, and joy, and a calmness in your life that will soon become the most important thing to you. Your family is what really matters to you, love is what matters to you. Things that are of quality, not quantity.” ~ Life Lessons Learned

I have been away from writing since before Christmas, and for some unknown reason or maybe one that I am not willing to admit out loud, recovery from the holidays took a little longer, this year. I also allowed the grayness of the long, cold winter take away my creativity, along with being preoccupied with the harsh realities of my life, I, unfortunately, somewhat deviated away from my life passion. With Spring approaching, and with a few days of feeling it in the air, there is this sense of renewal that comes with the season, and I’m back!

Lately, I have been thinking about my all-time favorite Italian dish, Lasagna. A favorite, for as far back as I can remember, and in my research of this rich, and flavorful Italian classic, believe it or not, it comes with a history lesson. There are a few theories, but here’s the Italian one…Lasagna originated in Italy, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Traditional lasagna is made by layering pasta with layers of sauce, made with a ragù or a béchamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. In other regions, it is common to find lasagna made with ricotta or mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, various meats (ground beef, pork or chicken), a variation of vegetables (spinach, zucchini, and mushrooms), and typically flavored with wine, garlic, onion, and oregano. In all cases the lasagna is baked in the oven.

Lasagne calde, calde le lasagne, caldeee! History states that forty years ago, you could hear vendors bellow those words from the busy platform of the Bologna railway station. Though lasagna vendors don’t exist today, Lasagna alla Bolognese remains the most famous recipe in Italy, and throughout Europe. In Italy, there are countless regional variations of lasagna. Ingredients differ according to place, and local custom but the distinctive character of lasagna remains the same…layers of flat or curly noodles, separated by layers of rich gravy or sauces, a focus ingredient like meat, fish or vegetables, all baked up into one glorious masterpiece of flavor. While lasagna was born in Italy, a familiar hot slice of this cheesy, rich comfort food makes it one of the most commonly craved Italian dishes in homes, and restaurants all around the world.

As a child, I was totally addicted to lasagna, and it was a regular dish served on Easter, Christmas Day, and as a special birthday dinner. In between those special occasions, as an adult, it was always my main entrée selection at specific Italian restaurants, who I knew made an outstanding version of this Italian classic, and in my opinion, there were very few restaurants who could accomplish this feat. My first introduction to learning how to prepare, and master an outstanding lasagna was by watching my Aunt Fanny, who besides my father, was one of the first great influences in my life with perfecting my cooking skills. Staying true to our Napolitano decent, her Lasagna Napoletana included layers of curly lasagna noodles, gravy (again, not sauce, gravy!), ricotta cheese, mozzarella, grated cheese, and these tiny meatballs, which were the size of a marble. As tedious as it was to make those tiny meatballs, Aunt Fanny never faltered from putting every ounce of love, and perfection into her lasagna. And as a child, to a teenager to a young adult to a grown up, you couldn’t wait to cut into Aunt Fanny’s lasagna to find those delicious tiny meatballs. A Sunday morning lesson at Aunt Fanny’s always included her masterpiece of a Sunday gravy. Her gravy, more often than not, always included meatballs, Italian sausage, pork, braciole pelle di maiale (pig skin braciole), and beef braciole, which is pretty much what mine is today, with a bit of a variation, and absolutely, no braciole pelle di maiale…only because my children, and grandchildren won’t eat it, and it’s not at the top of the health conscious favorite food list.

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Lasagna Napoletana

Another great cooking influence in my life is Nanny Angie. Honestly, she is, by far, the most talented cook I know. I have watched this woman for over 40 years, turn out food from the smallest to the largest of kitchens that made your mouth salivate just watching it being placed on the table to your mouth humming with absolute pleasure while you ate her food. You walk away from her table completely intoxicated from the experience, and with a belly so satisfied. If I learned anything from Nanny, cooking was about pleasing people. A lot of love is a must, and it will always come through in your food. Presentation was crucial, and sitting back, watching people eat your food with complete, and utter enjoyment would be your reward. She taught me cooking was a labor of love, which took planning, creativity, patience, and precision. Amongst her many masterpiece dishes, her lasagna was right at the top of my all-time favorites. For Nanny, lasagna wasn’t a regular everyday dish, it was saved for holidays, and special occasions. Her lasagna wasn’t much different than Aunt Fanny’s, with the exception that hers did not include any meat. Exact and pure precision went into the amount of ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and grated cheese that was used in her lasagna. You can easily overdo it with the cheese, which would create a runny, cheesy mess on your plate but not Nanny’s…perfection every time. Her lasagna took time, patience, and precision with each layer. It’s hard to describe what it was like watching her make this masterpiece, and the only words that come to mind…it was an artistic creation being prepared right before your eyes. There was a rhythm, a glow, and a sense of pride surrounding her with everything she cooked. Cooking is truly an art, and you have to love it, and have a complete passion for cooking to turn out mouthwatering, and tasteful delicacies, such as Nanny Angie’s lasagna.

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Lasagna

Passing on family traditions is so important to me, and I must admit, with great pride, over the years, my daughter must have been paying attention to the preparation, and skills that went into making a lasagna because she too has mastered the art of making a perfect dish of lasagna. My only hope is that she continues to pay attention, and for as long as I am able, I will continue to teach my granddaughters, too. Cooking together in the kitchen, as a family, and sharing family recipes, along with secrets passed from one generation to the next. may be a lost art for some but not in this Nana’s kitchen.

One of the positive side effects from the labor of making the meatballs, frying the gravy meat, stirring the gravy, and layering the intoxicating goodness of the lasagna noodles, the cheeses, and the gravy on top of each other is the guaranteed knowledge of knowing…there will always be leftovers!

As I have stated many times, it’s extremely hard for me to recite or write my recipes down on paper. I learned from the best of them, and exact measurements were rarely used. I can do all of the recipes below by osmosis but in the spirit of giving back, I have done my best to capture all of the steps, and I hope you enjoy all of them.

Lastly, when in the kitchen, always remember Julia Childs words, “Cooking is one failure after another, and that’s how you finally learn…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”

Buon appetito!

Lasagna

  • 5 cups gravy (Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love, recipe below)
  • 1 (32 oz.) container whole milk Polly~O Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 cup grated Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese (my preference but if you prefer, you can use Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 box lasagna (15 sheets, cooked al dente) *see note below
  • 4 1/2 cups shredded Polly~O Mozzarella Cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ricotta, 3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, and parsley in a bowl. Season, to taste, with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the eggs and mix all together.

Spread 1/2 cup gravy over bottom of 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Place 5 lasagna sheets over gravy, overlapping to fit. Spread half of ricotta mixture evenly over the sheets. Sprinkle 2 cups of mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta mixture. Then, spoon 1 1/2 cups of gravy over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover. Repeat layering with remaining lasagna sheets, ricotta mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups gravy. Once you have arranged remaining 5 sheets, top with remaining gravy, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake for about 40 minutes. Uncover, then bake until hot, and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let the lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.

Note: A trick to keep the lasagna sheets from sticking to each other, add a little olive oil to the boiling pot of salted water, and once drained, run them under cold water, and carefully hang over the side of a colander or a pot, without touching each other completely. Another quick option is to use the No Boil lasagna sheets, which also produces a perfect lasagna, and saves a lot of time. Barilla puts out a good quality No Boil lasagna.

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Lasagna

Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love (Gravy)

  • 1 1/2 lbs. Italian sausage (sweet or hot or combination of both)
  • 10 – 12 pork spare ribs (small but meaty)
  • Bunch of fresh basil (stems removed)
  • 1 onion (peeled and cut in half)
  • 2 -3 (35 oz. can) Scalfani Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes (This is my preference. I find them to be the most consistent canned tomatoes but feel free to use your favorite.)
  • 3  (28 oz. can) Scalfani Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1  (6 oz. can) Scalfani Tomato Paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil (enough for frying)
  • Sugar (handful)

Season both sides of pork spare ribs with kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. Heat oil, over medium heat, in an 8 quart Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add pork spare ribs, and fry until there is a nice sear on all sides. Remove from pot, and set aside. In same pan, brown Italian sausage until they are just cooked through (approx. 15 min). Remove from pot, and set aside. Add additional oil, if needed. Prepare meatballs (recipe below), and fry meatballs, in batches (do not overcrowd) until cooked all the way through. Add onion, and brown. Drain off excess oil. Do not wash pot. Reduce heat to low, and add all meat (pork, sausage, and meatballs) back into the pot.

Pulse whole peeled tomatoes in blender for a 5 second count, and add to the pot. Add crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste. Take one empty can of crushed tomatoes, fill it to the top with water, and transfer back, and forth between all cans of tomatoes, including tomato paste. Add water to the pot of gravy, and stir.

Add a bunch of basil leaves (handful, not chopped). Add a handful of sugar, and season with kosher salt, to taste. Stir and simmer on low heat for 3 hours.

Note: Keep in mind, you will need extra gravy for the lasagna. A thought to take into consideration when thinking about how many cans of tomatoes you will need or use.

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Pork Spare Ribs

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Italian Sausage

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Scalfani Whole Peeled Tomatoes

Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground meat (combination of pork, veal and beef)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 – 8 large slices of Terranova bread, crust removed and cubed (2 day old bread)
  • Milk (enough to coat bread)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  •  1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 2 large handfuls of Pecorino Romano grated cheese

Place cubed terranova bread in a large bowl, and cover with milk (don’t overdo the milk). Let bread soak for approx. 15 min. Squeeze out bread, and drain off excess milk. Add ground meat, egg, finely minced garlic, parsley, cheese, kosher salt (approx. 1 tsp.), and freshly ground pepper. Mix altogether until well incorporated. To form consistent sized meatballs, I use an ice cream scooper. Roll each scoop into a ball, and fry, as noted above.

Note: The meatball mixture should be a tight consistency, otherwise, the meatballs will fall apart in the gravy, and that’s an Italian cook’s worst nightmare!

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Meatballs

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Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love

Family, Food, Foodporn, Italian Traditions, Life, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love

Simply Deborah

Since I was a little girl, Sunday’s have always had a special meaning. When you’re fortunate enough to grow up in a multi-cultural family, like myself, you are born into a world of some magnificent foods, and family traditions that stay with you for a lifetime. My only wish has always been to pass on those childhood memories, traditions, recipes, and for them to be replicated for generations to come. Today, I am going to take you on a journey on how I got to a place that I call…”Nana’s Sunday Pot of Love.”

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My dad was born, and raised in Puerto Rico, and he came to New York at the age of 16. My mother was born in Harlem, and her parents, (my grandparents) were Italian immigrants from Naples, Italy, who eventually settled in Mt. Vernon, New York. Me, an American, born, and raised into a family of Puerto Rican…

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