Wheels go ’round

Have you ever had so many thoughts go through your head at one time you question your own sanity? Yeah, that’s where I am right now. Actually, that’s where my head is at the moment. My body on the other hand is hanging outside with a gentle warm breeze touching my face and arms. Listening to the birds sing and glancing to watch them zooming and darting from one feeder to another. This makes me happy and peaceful. I have put out a couple of suet baskets and there are frequent guests including a Woodpecker pair, chickadee’s, a pair of Cardinals, lots of Goldfinches and a few House Finches. I have strategically placed three Hummingbird feeders about the area and those darling little gems visit often and always make me smile when I see them drinking the nectar I have made just for them. Next to me there is the pond stocked with so many little goldfish and the gentle sound of the waterfall rolling and bubbling. This is my joy this is what I will think about during those long, dreary winter days when my hands and feet are cold. The days when the sky is always grey and the days are dreadfully short and snow is plentiful. I will take in these days of warmth and sunshine as long as I can.
I find it so strangely ironic that this happy little spot where I sit now is just seconds away of my childhood. The house my parents had when I was born is right up the street and directly across from that house sits the old farmhouse that my father loved so dearly and purchased when I was a toddler and just up the street from that old place is the last home we lived in as a family. The ugly 1950’s rectangular box newly built and purchased for us because my mother hated the farmhouse so much. Granted there were rats that occasionally made their way into the house and the old well out front had long been abandoned when modern plumbing came to the suburbs. Its new residents were snakes. I remember my father trying relentlessly to rid the well of the snakes to no avail. My mother won and we moved into the “box”. I had always missed the farmhouse with its old barns and out buildings we kids had so much fun playing in. To this day I still love the smell of old barns. I can remember sitting in the stairway of that old house during my first encounter of “The Wizard of Oz” scared to death. Dad kept peeking in to check on me and refill the little bowl of popcorn that I clutched for dear life all alone in the dark, still hearing the movie but not watching it. “I’ll get you my pretty”…….
At the new “box” house dad built a swing set from wood by hand. We had a pool back there too. In the garage he had sets of hooks on the walls; 5 bicycles, 5 skateboards and an assortment of snow sleds all hung neatly. My dad was in the Liquor business and for a short time he was in charge of bringing an Altar Wine made by catholic monks to the public. He often would have us putting labels on wine bottles and sorting various paper promotions into piles. I liked doing those things because he always had Cheese crackers that he’d take to the wine tasting events he’d put on and of course snacking on those made the tasks even more fun. The Cheese crackers were “special” and we did not have them in the kitchen. Our snacks were more like apples, bananas, celery and maybe some potato chips here and there.
There were ALWAYS large amounts of kids around. My mother did a lot of babysitting for others and at any given time would have 10 kids, us 5 girls and 5 or more that belonged to other parents. Sometimes I wonder if that was the reason she turned to drinking. I guess the more you have the easier it could be. We were one big band of little people ranging in ages from teens to diapers. Each sort of chummed up with another and my bestie was Debbie. Closest to my age by a few months but those months put her one year ahead of me in school. We remained friends for many years after growing up and parents severing friendships.
The house Debbie grew up in is one street away from where I am now. It freaks me out a lot. It breaks my heart because she has been gone over 30 years now and I miss her, oh God how I miss her. She took her own life at the young age of 27 and never said goodbye to me. We were in diapers together, shared Barbie’s and hot summer days, winter school vacations and at 19 we even shared an apt briefly. We worked together at a Record warehouse where we’d pull the old vinyl records with amazing art covers and put orders in boxes for deliveries the record stores. It was a really cool job and we shared it like two broke girls hoping for the big break in life. Her childhood is one street away…..
My head spins, my heart aches and all the while I make adjustments to both. Wanting desperately to go back to the past and wanting somehow to find my future. I want to find my place in the world where I belong. As a little girl and teen into my twenty something years, I only wanted to find my true love, get married and have babies. During my late 20’s and into my 30’s I came to accept that those dreams were not to be for me. I’m totally fine with that now but I sure do wonder sometimes when my trade off will come. When those moments come I hit myself up with “you’ve lived more than most people”. I just remind myself of the years lived; the hurts, the happiness, the times I felt beaten and the times I got up. My faith hasn’t always been my compass but I have leaned on it often. I can say with complete honesty that I have offered up just as many “thank you’s” as I have fears and heartbreaks. There has always been a feeling within me that I am being guided through this maze called life by someone other than my earthly self.
I go through my days focusing on work because it’s all that has ever saved me. I hope and pray for a better life and God knows I sure do work hard for it. I still consider the possibility of moving to Italy. I still think I can pull a rabbit out of my hat and have a home of my own again. Whether in the US or Italy, I would love to have a home of my own again.
It’s so strange being here in this area again. Remembering what the landscape was like so many years ago and how much it has changed to fit growth and population. The big horse farms are gone and the dairy farms are all gone as well, replaced with housing tracks, medical buildings and commercial businesses. Once 4 way stops are now 3 to 6 lane intersections. It makes my head spin, the stark contrast of what life was like as a little girl and what it is now.
Moving forward and working towards my goal of a better life has always been the common thread in my life but now it seems much more difficult to focus on. It’s hard to keep perspective when all you see are memories of your past. A past filled with happiness and innocence, sisters and besties, snow suits and bathing suits and all of the things that came along with my childhood.
Though the memories of childhood linger and I fight to stay on track with my goals for my future, my head just spins with thoughts of both. The nagging questions are; what can I learn from this, how can I use this mental place to understand and make sense of it all?

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One sure thing

There are few things we can count on in life other than change. It can happen in an instant or it can happen over a few weeks or months but for sure it happens. Sometimes change happens so slowly you hardly even notice it until, one day you see things completely different. It is in that moment you realize, for better or worse, you have changed. Then there are the times you make change happen, a choice, a conscious effort to recreate or relocate or do something totally out of your comfort zone. Switch things up to make your own life better.

Bring in the surprise factor and change can send you reeling….the sudden loss of someone close, the betrayal of a friend you trusted for years. Forced change is by far one of the hardest changes, at least for me, to deal with. I don’t allow many people to get too close into my heart for this very reason but when I do, you’re “all in”. Break that trust or betray me and you’re done. It may sound pretty harsh and severe, but I can cut you out of my life, with the skill of a highly trained surgeon. Every possible tie is broken and absolutely NO information that I have any control over is given about me. The person doesn’t get to know where I am, what I’m doing, who I talk to etc. I leave them with the wondering, the not knowing and their thoughts or reminders of me. As far as I’m concerned they have no rights to know a single thing about me once they have hurt and betrayed me. It all changes.

This brings me to how we change ourselves. It’s a sure thing; we change. Whether its chosen or not, everyday we meet with the challenge of how to adjust to it. How we might want to make it happen or how we plan to alter its path, our path. Looking for the good or just pieces of positive parts so that we may become the better for it. Taking the lessons learned and applying the better parts to make us better people. A person who can hold their head up and say ” I met with a dragon today – it scared the crap out of me but I learned from it “.

Change is unstoppable, for me the key is how you deal with it and the choices you make. I happen to be one of those people who needs time to think, to examine the parts and the rolls all have played. I take the time to digest the hurt and the pain that have changed my life. Slowly I adjust to the changes others have inflicted and I move on, I push forward and make the alterations necessary to stay true to myself. Bitterness is not an emotion I like to feel or carry so I refuse to let that in. My choice has always been to learn from change, accept it and use it to be the person I want to be. Someone who is open, honest, loving, giving and taken their share of changes with grace.

It’s a sure thing change comes – how you handle it is completely up to you.

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The Mark

Today I mark a special note on my calendar; it was one year ago that I left Rochester NY to land in Napoli, one hundred years to the day that my grandfather arrived in America. It feels like yesterday. Yet it also feels like a lifetime ago.

Life never ceases to amaze me. In the two years that lead up to my incredible journey, I had no pre-conceived ideas of what I was about to live through. Yes, I knew the family I had found was excited to welcome me but not to the depths of love, embrace, generosity, care and profound emotions that would overcome all of us. It never occurred to me that I would be the recipient of so much from so many! I knew the very moment I stepped out of the airport in Napoli my life had changed forever. But to what extent had yet to be realized.

Again I say; Life never ceases to amaze me. What unfolded after my return and the crazy twists and turns has tested me to my core. The first few months after I returned I was an emotional puddle. Wanting so badly to be back in Melfi with my family, wanting to hold on with every ounce of strength to that sense of peace and love and belonging. Desperately trying to re-conform to my life “before” the journey, many challenges were thrown in my path. It was hurtful encounters with “friends” and a push/pull with trying make a decision to move to Melfi, Italy. It was being forced to move here with nowhere to go. It was constant text messages with my Melfi family daily, staying close and connected. It was a scramble to find a place to live during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays, finding people to help me move. Throwing furniture to the curb for lack of storage space. Saving the antiques I had purchased over time to furnish an otherwise empty shell of a house. Saying goodbye to my Art Studio by spending 5 hours with another dear friend helping me pack it all away. And finding yet another space to store those very things that had made me happy, creative and comfortable. It was hearing the wonderful news of my Italian cousins adoption of his son, the birth a another cousins little girl, the birth of another cousins little boy. It was hearing the news of a pregnancy from Roma – twins! and her sister one month later announcing her own pregnancy. The year has been filled with joyful surprises such as letters from Vincenza. Her letters come and I tear up with excitement and longing to be with her.

It has been a delicate balance of adjusting. Choosing to focus my energies on moving forward and cherishing the gifts that life is constantly giving me. I try to take the little hits that come lightly because overall life is short and I choose to be happy. I choose to be thankful and grateful over angry and miserable.

In the months to come I choose to continue to move forward with the goals of happiness, rising above the muck that gets thrown at my feet. I have every intention of returning to Italy. Live never ceases to amaze me and sometimes I amaze myself.

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The Return 2015

Eleven months ago I was a bundle of nerves and filled with excitement. Final preparations were being made for my trip to Italy to meet my family for the first time. Before booking this trip my last official “vacation” was to Cape Cod in 1993, so I was more than ready to leave town and venture out in to the world. Having never flown on an international flight I was feeling unsure of how I would find my way and get to where I needed to be on time during the plane changes. Those were very minor concerns as the bigger, better task was to be properly prepared. I had been planning this trip in my mind for months and now I was down to just a few short weeks of my dream becoming a reality.

It was weeks after my return to the states before I could write about my visit. So deeply touched by the huge outpouring of love by my italian family and the people of Melfi, it took me a very long time to regroup myself both mentally and emotionally. It felt as though I was floating inside a huge bubble of the experiences I had in Italy. My sleep interrupted with memories of joy and happiness, I would wake during the night and realize I was back in my own bed and had been dreaming. The dreams felt so real and were only unsettling because I was torn between two countries and two families – both of which were my own.

Since then my life has taken yet another crazy turn. It was rough, it was tough and it sure was painful but damned if I didn’t make it through!!! Ha! YES I survived. I have paid my price and have now cleared the way for more good things to enter my life. Choosing to replace the bad and ugly with the beautiful bread and wine life has to offer.

That is Italian bread and Italian wine…..I am returning to my beloved Italy! The decision came last week. To describe how I came to the decision is quite difficult because I didn’t really plan it and wasn’t even thinking about it. I mean, I knew I’d return to Italy but with everything that has happened in past couple of months it wasn’t foremost on my mind. I guess the best way I can put it is that it was a “physical” feeling. I felt my body get light, it felt clean and clear like a beautiful blue sky. Then June 2015 came to mind and that was it. I will return to Italy in June 2015.

So I start again to over-work myself to save money for airfare and spending. This time I know what I’m in for! This time I will take gifts. This time I will speak better Italian! I’ve met everyone at least once, so this time I will spend more time with the elders. This time I will ask more questions. This time maybe I’ll fly into Rome – I’d love to see it! Maybe, just maybe I might add an extra week there….
AND this time I will go without threats from “Mr”. This time I will not be punished by him either. I am so very thankful to be free of him and his deranged mind.

I can’t wait to go to Melfi again! To spend a day or two in Naples again, what a beautiful city. We will walk in the mountains again. There are babies that have been born, one that has been adopted and a set of twins on the way, I will meet these amazing children, gifts from God to our family. I will kiss their cheeks and hug them and tell them they are cherished. I will see my beloved elder Palmina’s (all 3 of them) and my dearest Vincenza who writes to me in translated english and worries about me when she see’s horrible storms of the US on her television.

I am returning to my home of comfort and love. The place my heart feels peace. I am returning to Italy.

New to my blog? You can read the whole Italy story here:
I’ll be home in 100 years Part 1

I’ll be home in 100 years Part 2

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Sparkle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heading into the second month of the major change in my living situation, I am seeing greater moments of positive – the proverbial “silver lining” has started to come through. A slow process to be sure but I keep my eyes open for that glint of sparkle. Finding the good things about the change was quite difficult in the beginning – that’s normal I suppose. Especially because this move was not my choice – it was at someone else’s hand. Regardless of how I got here, my days are starting to feel routine. Priorities flipped and switched and reset. I have let go of more emotional baggage and closed a few doors, which in turn has created room for better things to come into my heart and my head. There was a bloodletting of sorts. It was not without pain and effort mind you, but it was healing and therapeutic in many ways.

Only when I rid myself of the weight of those burdens did I find the peace and space that allowed me to see a small sampling of what good is to come my way. A sparkle, a light and airy feeling in my chest. Doors appear that I had not seen before. I am moments from turning their knobs and pushing them open. I can see the little streams of light glowing from the small slits around the door. They shine like embers and sparkle with promise.

One year ago my whole life revolved around my visit to Italy. Scrimping and saving to buy my airline tickets and have money to spend while I was there. One year ago I was filled with excitement and anxiety, fear and exhilaration. I was planning and making lists, worrying about being a burden, not understanding the language, what the weather would be like and how much weight I’d put on since having to take large doses of Prednisone for my RA. Yeah, I put on almost 25 pounds. It was upsetting but I couldn’t do a thing about that. One year ago I was preparing for what I thought was to be an exciting trip. I told myself it was MY TURN and I deserved it. As it turned out it was a truly life altering experience. More than I had even begun to imagine was possible.

Now, one year later, look where I ended up! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again;
I would take that amazing journey of love, family and Italy even if I knew what “they” would punish me with! I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I will get to take that journey to Italy again. This time without punishment, without my life being held in their balance. I will buckle to no one. I will answer to only myself. This next visit to be with my family in Italy will also be an investigation and research quest. What I can do for work to support myself there, how to become a citizen, where I can afford to live and IF I think I am capable of taking the Expat route for the rest of my life. Or do I want to go for dual citizenship?

I see a future. I see a light – and it sparkles.

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Let It Be

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me“.
So much has changed in the last few weeks. My life turned upside down again and I have tried with all my might to take it with every ounce of inner strength I can muster up. For those of you who don’t know; I was told to leave the house I lived in because of my 100 Years Project to meet my family in Italy. I scrimped and saved to get there and spent two of the happiest weeks of my life reconnecting a family in two countries. It’s all documented here on my blog. The owner of the house became so angry that he told me to leave. My punishment for doing something he doesn’t have the nerve to do. He has obvious mental issues and I became the focus of his hate and realizations of his weaknesses and inferiority problems. So, “Let It Be”  has become my mantra.

 “and in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be”. 
Am I angry? Hell yes! Am I hurt? Yup, but I can’t spend time with those feelings because they serve no good to me or for me. Now I am learning to live each day a bit differently. I have lost so much with this move. There are moments I feel so sad, so lonely, so empty and so very lost in this great big world. Yet I remind myself of the things that make me smile inside, the moments I was in Melfi, Naples, San Giovanni Rotondo. The mental image of the Adriatic Sea from the mountain top. The days spent with my family, how happy they were to have me there! The sounds of their voices, laughter and chattering in the Italian language which I still do not understand. I pull my thoughts to those amazing moments of meals together, walking the ancient streets, smelling the air and feeling it on my face. Details, I remember so many details and they make me smile. My heart is so happy when I think back to my days in Melfi. It was the most incredible time of my life and NOTHING anyone can do TO me will change that.

and when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me
I have stayed connected with my Italian family. My grandmothers niece and I write letters regularly. My cousins and I group chat daily through an app on our cell phones. We send pictures, greetings, videos and even voice messages every day. They send me translations of Melfitano dialect: Kiatres=fa freddo=it’s cold. I am included in their daily life. Photo’s of my cousins newly adopted son, Simone. I was included in the celebration of another cousins birth of her son just last week, the birth of another cousins daughter in November and the news of yet another pregnancy – with TWINS!

There will be an answer, Let it Be”
So often I think I should just move to Melfi. I ponder the possibility each day. The Pros and Cons of moving to Melfi are many. America has always been my home country but I have no home of my own in America. Nor would I have one in Melfi, but I have so much family in Melfi that would help me until I could establish myself. There would be many trade offs. My small family here; what would life be like without them? My very large family in Melfi; how can I stay away? First order of business is learning Italian, which I start next month. The rest is ALL financial and overwhelming.

I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be”
Somehow I think the answer will come in due time. If I walk each day with peace and confidence I have to believe that the answers will come. If I “let it be” to the hurt from a friend who would put me on the street, “let it be” to the harsh and difficult struggle he has put in my path, “There will be an answer, let it be” could very well be the mantra that will bring me home.

“Shine until tomorrow, Let it be”

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Unexpected Acts of Kindness

Saturday morning here in Western NY was brutally cold and windy. We had received a large dumping of snow on Thursday and by Saturday most of it had been cleared from roads and parking lots but some area’s still had a good amount of half-frozen slushy stuff.

I bundled up and ventured out just to get a couple of things; dog food, gas and one of the medications I needed. I had only 20 bucks for gas this morning. I pulled into line with only one car in front of me at the pump. It appeared empty with no one around but I thought I’d wait a minute to see if the person would return. I sat there looking at all the people pumping their gas and holding on for dear life with the wind blowing so hard. It took what seemed like forever, but finally the driver’s door of the car in front of me opened, two small feet gingerly swung out to the ground and an elderly man stepped out. The wind was blowing so fiercely his coat almost blew off of his body as he stood upright. He had old sneakers on and the ice and snow under his feet made him walk with a shuffle as he held on to his car and his coat. Realizing I was holding my breath as he finally got to the rear of his car, I got out of my car, I couldn’t watch another second. That frigid high wind hit me with such impact I gasped. I walked up to this poor old man and asked if I could pump his gas for him. He said “oh, would you please”? I told him I’d be happy to and asked him to get back in his car. He shuffled back around his car and I was torn whether to help him or start filling his tank. The attendant walked by and said “you don’t have to do that”. “I know” I said. I stood there in that cold and wind and wondered what this old man and his wife were doing out in such conditions. I had only ventured out to get three things. It really bothered me to witness this fragile old man fighting the elements just for gas. As I was standing there pumping his gas the lady next to me blessed me for my kindness saying “not one person offered but you”. There were a lot of people there, it’s a busy place any time of year or conditions. When his tank was full I grabbed his receipt and gave it to him. He thanked me and off they went.
I pulled my car up to the pump, put $20 worth of gas in my tank, paid the attendant and left. It took me a while to digest what had just happened and to stop wondering about that couple. Thinking to myself how a simple act of kindness – less than 5 mins of my time – is more personally fulfilling than the act itself. For a few short minutes I forgot how miserable and stressful my life is at this moment. I realized how much easier it is to smile, hold a door, offer to do something so crazy simple like pump someones gas for them!

I wonder if we just don’t pay attention to our surroundings. Are we that caught up with ourselves that we can’t see what’s right in front of us? Maybe because it did happen right in front of me I couldn’t ignore it. I know for a fact that I had visions of that poor man taking a face first dive to the icy pavement and people just passed him by. Including the attendant and the lady on the other side of my pump who blessed me for helping a little old man just trying to take care of himself and his wife.

It’s amazing how one simple little act of human kindness offered to another makes you feel so good about yourself. It wasn’t planned, it just happened. That makes it all the better. So, I guess the only other thing I want to say is “Pass it On” please.

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