has been on my heart a lot lately. And this picture captures the essence of her
beautiful always smiling face, the love that always beamed from her eyes, the
peace and joy that filled every encounter with her.
Nonna Rosina always wore a babushka on her head and was always fingering her
rosaries in her apron pocket.
are so many memories growing up with my grandparents right next door. The
delicious cookies and 7 UP she would bring out when we were playing outside,
cooking and baking with her, she loved sweet potatoes and potatoes in general
and often added cinnamon to her chicken and steak while cooking.
kept a stash of 7 UP under her bed to the chagrin of my grandfather and the
inside door to her little walk in closet was plastered with Holy Cards, her
dresser had framed pictures of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred
Heart of Jesus that are now in my bible and the couch in her living room was
covered in plastic. She kept her little stash of money in a handkerchief she
made into a pouch that affixed to her bra with safety pin and she was always
pulling out and giving you money and telling you to put it right away so no one
would know. She spent most of her time in her kitchen, in our kitchen with my
mom and dad or sitting outside watching us play. The second she saw you her
eyes would light up and she couldn't wait to hug and love on you and pinch your
cheeks. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren were her world and her
beaming smile gave it away every time. And every day, numerous times during the
day she sat in her chair by the fireplace to pray her rosary, sometimes when I
was there with the TV on with no sound, she never turned on the sound, she
spoke only Italian and didn't understand what they were saying. As a kid I used
to interpret for her and often my mother because my grandmother spoke no
English and when I was young my mother still predominately spoke Italian.
I think back, there are so so many memories, but what I remember most about my
Nonna is the LOVE, peace and joy that was her essence, filled her heart and
beamed from her always smiling and joyful face and countenance.
will always remember her faith and her love of God and the Blessed Mother.
Nonna was a fierce protector of my mother, her only child, while being
separated from my grandfather who was here in the US and not seeing or being
reunited with him for 36 years. During that time apart while he was in the US,
she suffered and endured a life of unspeakable hardship in Italy before she
came to the US. And again when reunited with my grandfather after 36 years she
had her share of hardships and sufferings here too.
nothing she experienced or endured ever diminished her capacity for love or the
joy and peace that surrounded her. My Nonna made a choice every day to live a
life of love and to hold tight to her faith and that is exactly what she did.
And even when Alzheimer's began to seep in the light of love and joy she
carried always never faded.
that is why during this Advent as I await the birth of sweet baby Jesus and
love and joy and peace He brings my Nonna Rosina remains so close on my heart
for at a young age I was blessed to witness the Light He brings to the world
shining bright in her !
“For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me
together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and
wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was
not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in
the depths of the earth”
Psalm 139: 13 - 15
Grief and loss never go away, no matter the years, gratefully
love and gratitude for the blessings always remain
How is it that 24 years can feel like the blink of an eye!
24 years ago today I sat by my mom's side, holding her hand
stroking her brow and telling her how very much I loved her as she was drifting
into the last few hours of her life.
The next morning, still by her side we said our last goodbye on
this side of heaven.
I knew at the time that I had been given so many gifts:
The gift of a mother who to me was beyond compare and the
strongest most amazing women of love, faith, courage, fortitude, perseverance
and grace that I have ever known.
The gift of her love, her guidance, her model of character,
integrity, honesty, dignity and honor.
The gift of being her youngest child, her unexpected surprise
born to her at the age of 40 when her other three children were teens and young
The gift of being a witness to her faith, her sacrifice and her
bravery and courage through years of physical pain and silent acceptance of
suffering, never losing her humor, her joy, her focus of family above all and
her daily and constant unconditional love and sacrifice for her family.
And the gift of being right there by her side when she drew her
last breath and was brought home in the arms of Jesus.
There is so much more to say - but for today, on the eve of my mom's
24th anniversary of her passing I can say .......
Sadness, loss and grief remain, not overwhelming, yet always
My heart is filled with untold joy in the treasured memories and
legacy of an incredible woman that I was blessed to call mom and whose love
lives on in me and every member of our family
Remembrance brings abiding peace and comfort
Love beyond telling, gratitude, thanksgiving and hope remain
The bond of love shared is forever binding, transcends time and
space and is always present
And while I miss her always, I know that she is at peace with
daddy in the arms of Jesus and is looking down upon us with ever present, ever
Hard to believe this was 10 years ago, where does the time go....
I was in awe and drenched from the mist!! The roar of the water and gushing of the falls was deafening and the spray of the mist was so powerful it came down in a constant turret!! Truly one of the most awe inspiring and majestic experiences I have every witnessed!! There were many areas along the catwalk to stop and take in the beauty of the falls. It was pure grace that I found myself alone at the edge of one of the platforms nearest the falls, head, face, heart and hands lifted in awe and praise to God for the majesty of His Wonder as the mist gushed down over me. A most powerful experience!!I didn't want to leave but everyone was already up at least two tiers away and so I had to force myself to leave.....for me it was the best part of the Cave of the Winds!!! Niagara Falls is awe inspiring and amazing and it was a blessed family trip. And a big note to self for next trip to Niagara, bring a waterproof camera and take the Cave of the Winds tour without a group so we can stay there for hours if we want to!!Funny thing is I had never had a burning desire to visit Niagara Falls. Now after having been, I am so grateful that we went and can't wait to go back!! Isn't it amazing how things work out, we initially chose to go the Niagara Falls because my bonus daughter Emily had a fascination with Canada and always wanted to go there. So the the first holiday and long weekend a month after we got back from our honeymoon, we decided to get her close to Canada by taking her to Niagara Falls while we worked on getting her a passport so we could eventually take her to Canada. Niagara Falls is breathtaking and awe-inspiring and if you ever have the chance to go, I pray that you do. I don't think it matters which side you see it from, it is ALL beautiful.And things always work out. The following year my sister gave me a generous gift of a week using their time share for my birthday, my choice wherever I wanted to go. I found a great place in Mont Tremblant, Canada. So with passports in hand we took a fabulous family trip to Canada the following July. Mont Tremblant is awesome in its own right, it was a wonderful trip, but the majesty of Niagara Falls can never be matched!
I came across this picture and this article in the Corpus Christi Caller Times doing a Throwback Thursday about my sister Irma and her husband, my brother-in-love Len amusement park called Magic Isles that was written in October 2017.And it got me thinking about people that I love and the lessons in life and in business that I have learned from their example.Since I was 7 or 8 years old I have grown up knowing Irma and Len's love story and being a firsthand witness to their powerful example of love, fidelity, dedication to family and community, hard work, generosity and wisdom individually and as a couple. And their love story is an ongoing tribute to love and legacy as they celebrated 52 years of marriage this August, their unity in all things and Leonard's trail blazing, innovative and intuitive spirit that has not only made him a successful businessman and entrepreneur but his influence that has been passed down to his children providing a beautiful legacy for them, their children and our family as a whole.My sister Irma is 15 years older than me so growing up, I had the benefit of older siblings that in many ways were like additional parents. This gave me the opportunity to do so many things I may never have gotten to experience. As I spent summers with Irma and Len in Texas and sometime traveling the mid-west with them to so many states and places in our beautiful country. And I was equally blessed with similar experiences with my sister Anna and her husband Rich and my brother Jack and his wife Carole traveling and working in family businesses from a young age, All benefits of being the little sister when your siblings are much older. And one of those blessings included working at Magic Isles during the summers after it was built in 1978 and going back every summer right through my college years. I was even able to share the joy by bringing a dear friend to Texas for the summer who also worked at the amusement park. We worked hard, but we had so much fun and have so so many wonderful memories.After my college graduation my parents, grandparents and brother and his family and I moved to Texas. I got my first full time job out of college as a Technical Writer and continued to help out at the amusement park on weekends and on special occasions, like those big Halloween events Len was talking about in the video. My dad a retired chef helped out in the kitchen, my brother used his skills as a general contractor to design and build structures in kiddie land similar to so many that you see in Storyland in the White Mountains, our whole family and extended family was involved in one way or another. And the Amusement Park was a great place for the local community to hold events and parties. They even filmed the final shots to a movie there. It was a grace filled time and I made wonderful friendships that remain treasures today. And as a proud Aunty I loved spending time with my nieces and nephew taking them on rides in the park. It truly was a special place to spend time with family and friends and the friendships I made and the experiences we shared during that special time make my heart smile. So this morning, when I saw this come up in my memories on facebook so many wonderful memories came flooding back. And with them a nod and reminder to me and to aspiring entrepreneurs to follow your heart, use your intuition and good common sense, know your stuff , lead with integrity, honor and steadfastness, have a solid plan, be flexible, make time for family and above all value people.This quote from Maya Angelou that I love sums it up perfectly " At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel."Yup, it's the value people piece and spending time with family and those that you love that really makes the difference in this life that we live. To me the value of time is so much more precious than anything else. And as I look back at the longevity of friendships, business relationships and experiences in our family and extended family that spans decades and businesses that have come and gone, that for me is the big takeaway!
“Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed. Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice hath looked down from heaven. For the Lord will give goodness; and our earth shall yield her fruit. Justice shall walk before him: and shall set his steps in the way.” Psalm 84: 11-14 When my parents moved to Texas one of the first things they did was cultivate the soil in the backyard for a beautiful and bountiful garden. They planted fruit trees throughout the yard and grape vines over a beautiful arbor. When my parents lived in Massachusetts they did not plant fig, apricot or olive trees because of the harsher climate. However in Texas with the warmer climate my father was so pleased to plant and grow figs which are a family favorite. And not long after the move to Texas my dad also planted an olive tree which reminded him of Italy. He took tender care of the olive tree and his gardens. My mom would often send care packages with all kinds of goodies from home. And they usually included fresh grapefruits, oranges, herbs and delightful treats from their garden. When my father died his olive tree was 19 years old and had grown into a most beautiful and sturdy tree, great for shade and for firm ripe olives. And as we later found out, one of the oldest olive trees of record in South Texas. Friends from the school in San Antonio where my sister Anna worked had a tree planted in our dad’s memory. That is where Anna met Sandy, proprietor of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard. When it came time to sell my parents house one of the hardest things was leaving the gardens, olive and fruit trees. So when my sister Anna suggested that we donate the tree. We all loved the idea and we donated the tree to Sandy. It was only fitting to us that Daddy’s tree should continue to be cared for and loved as he so gently cared for it over the years. Sandy came to my dad’s house in Corpus Christi and transplanted and transported the tree to her Olive Ranch. In her generous spirit of kindness and hospitality she also transplanted some of my dad’s fruit trees to my sister Irma and my brother Jack’s house, both who lived just a few miles from my dad’s so that his fruit trees could continue to thrive under their loving care. Irma has daddy's lemon tree and Jack has his grapefruit tree and they are producing fruit beautifully. A few years ago my brother sent me a care package of grapefruits from daddy's tree. The Olive tree has been settled in at Sandy Oaks now for a number of years and the tree is doing well and thriving under the loving attention and care of Sandy. It has a special place of honor in a garden next to her house and it continues to grow big and strong. There is a little bench right next to the tree and we have been given an open invitation to visit anytime. When John and I were dating he contacted my sister Anna an told her he was bringing me to Texas for my birthday. So he and my family planned a birthday celebration. When we arrived we stayed a few days in San Antonio with my sister Anna and her husband Rich. And we planned to head to Corpus Christi to meet up with the rest of the family over the weekend. On the drive from San Antonio to Corpus Christi we made a stop as we sometimes did to visit Sandy and Daddy's tree.Sandy, always so welcoming and hospitable showed us the changes she had made since the last time we were there. The new buildings she was building and the plans she had to expand. We visited for a while, walked around her ranch and took pictures by daddy's tree. It was such a blessed time, and I was so grateful that John was able to meet her and to see Daddy's tree for the first time.Not long after Sandy took daddy's tree to Sandy Oaks, Anna and Rich gave us each a shadow box. It was a picture of Daddy's tree with a piece of the bark mounted in a shadow box frame. The shadow box is displayed on my dining room buffet. The dining room buffet that is part of the wonderful dining room set that belonged to my parents and was gifted to me, the youngest in the family. Last night I was putting things away in the dining room and the shadow box caught my eye. I stood and looked at it for a long while, I thought about my parents, daddy's tree, Anna and Rich's thoughtfulness in giving us the shadow boxes as a sweet remembrance, Sandy and her generous kindness to our family and how now the Olive Tree was under the loving care of Sandy at Sandy Oaks. Today my sister shared with us that Sandy lost her battle with cancer and passed away recently. A sad day to be sure knowing another kind, beautiful, peaceful light has gone from this world. And at the same time a smile of remembrance for the goodness of a beautiful soul that touched my life. Truly a blessing. There is a little story about the tree with a link to Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard on my Made With Love - A Tribute to my Parents website. Sandy has gone and Sandy Oaks is closing, but the memories and the remembrance of Sandy and her kindness and Daddy's Olive Tree lives on in our memories and in our hearts.The world is full of the goodness of the Lord!!
I have known about you and loved you since I was a little girl.
to know San Gabriel I guess you could say from the day I was born, although it
would be a few years before I could say his name and come to know him through my mothers
devotion to him. And it would be a few years more till I developed my own friendship and devotion to this
joyful and youthful Saint.
came to know San Gabriele of Our Lady of Sorrows through stories my mother would tell me about him, his
miracles and his life. He is the patron saint of the Abruzzi region in Italy where she
lived and grew up. My mom loved
San Gabriel and often spoke of him. She often
would ask for his intersession with the Blessed Mother and Jesus. And she
longed to return to visit his shrine that was built in the Gran Sasso mountains
guess you could say my mother came to know him from birth as well through my Nonna Rosina who was devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and had a love for San
Gabriele and many other saints. And San Gabriele being the patron saint of Abruzzi was a very popular saint with many people in the area. But I also think the devotion may stem from his receiving his canonization by Pope Benedict XV on May 13, 1920,
just 5 days before my mom was born.
the end of the summer of my junior year in college I took a trip to Italy with
my dad. My mom who had suffered many hardships in Italy before coming to the
United States had always had issues with her hips and recovering from her numerous
surgeries between both her hips through the early
70's and 80's. She was one of the first
to have a total hip replacement and she suffered other ailments and issues because
of complications from the surgeries, anesthesia and blood transfusions over the
her difficulty walking my mom was not able to travel with me and my dad to
Italy that year. But she was adamant that daddy take me to San Gabriele's Shrine in the
Gran Sasso mountains.
It was an amazing trip with my dad. We visited
with his family, my mom’s family, we walked the land that he and my mom walked
as kids, as a couple, visited family churches, sites of family events, beaches,
landmarks, holy places, graves of our family, spent time walking our families land and the remaining
parcel of land my parents still owned at the time, sitting outside and inside around the
table, singing, making music under the stars and drinking wine into the night, we attended family events, and local feast days in the village, we picked fresh figs, apricots, cherries,
grapes and fresh vegetables for the family table from the family gardens and orchards, took a peek in the chicken and rabbit
coops, took strolls in the evening, played bacci, ate gelato, drank tons of espresso and shared meal after, meal and story after story. We even took a bus trip with a small group of family to Padua and
Venice and traveled with family to Rome and so many places in between.
I got meet face to face relatives that I
had spoken to on the phone and knew all about but had never met before. I took lots of pictures and notes, asked lots of questions,
got birthdates and anniversaries, got details on family lines and soaked up anything
I could to capture the historical details of our family tree. I wanted to capture every moment. And I got to speak italian, not the proper roman italian, but the dialect I was raised with and it was glorious. I was experiencing a great blessing and I knew it, and I had the blessing of sharing this time with my beautiful family in the country of my parents and siblings’ birth.
as part of our adventures, my dad arranged for us to visit San Gabriele’s Shrine
during our third or fourth week there. He wanted me to fully experience the beautiful Abruzzi region that was his home before coming to the United States and to experience other areas of Italy as well, And we have the blessing of having a large family in various places.
Yolanda, in front of the chicken coopBut most important was spending time with our family just relaxing and catching up, no plans just wherever the day took us. Daddy had devoted a whole week to taking me to
visit my mom's village and meeting her relatives. During that week daddy took me to visit my
mother’s best friend Yolanda. Yolanda kept
hugging me, and she kept telling me that looking at me was like seeing my mom
when she was my age. I knew all about Yolanda
because of my mom’s communications with Yolanda over the years and their loving
friendship that transcended years and distance as they wrote letters and exchanged
packages over the many years since my mom left Italy. For me
it was like meeting an old friend. I
listened to Yolanda’s stories as she talked about her friendship with my mom and
their life growing up and the many memories they shared. We laughed, cried and
in short time I came to love Yolanda like I know my mom did.
also took me to the one room with a tiny loft home my mother shared with her mother and grandfather before
they married and then years later shared the same one room with my grandmother and
siblings. That one room over the years
had become a chicken coop. It was so small with a barley discernable loft and I was baffled how my mom made that house a home for three adults and three children. My mom worked in the fields, made pasta from grain and would sweep the dirt floor clean every day. It was amazing to me, by my mom and dad made that one room chicken coop a home to raise their family before
they left Italy for America.
one morning as my uncle drove us towards my mom's village my dad asked my uncle to stop the car at the base of the hill that led up to her village. He
wanted us to walk the steps my mom walked growing up and that he and my mom
Along the way we met a
woman from the village, we stopped and talked with her and took a picture. She was walking with
her donkey balancing a heavily laden basket atop her head.
And as we walked along we stopped in surprising various
relatives and friends. Seeing me, they all commented how much I looked like my mother when she was my age.
We had wonderful visits along the way. It was surreal and
amazing to meet my family, walk the fields and meadows, groves, gardens and vineyards
that my mom walked and worked. We
stopped by old homesteads of my mother and her family growing up, meeting cousins at their homes,
in the fields and on their tractors working the land.
even walked through overgrown brush and vegetation to visit the old washing font
where my mother would wash clothes and where my parents first met each other and
began their love story.
As my dad tells it, the day they met, my dad and his brother were taking a short cut through the woods
when they heard someone singing. My mom
was alone at the washing font. The font
is an area where people in the village would go to wash their clothes. My mom was washing her clothes and was singing
in her lilting raspy voice.
heard mommy’s raspy lilting voice singing and when he got closer to her, he saw
a beautiful young woman as he has described over the years in a bright salmon
colored dress washing her clothes. The rest
as they say is history. Daddy was smitten, and my uncle who was with him and recognized
my mother cautioned my dad that her mother, my Nonna Rosina, was known in the
village as being very protective of her daughter and would not let anyone near
But my dad was not deterred by the
news, he instead went right home, told his father that he wanted to meet her
and would not take no for an answer. So my dads father, Nonno Sabatino, a widow, made the arrangements for them to meet with my Nonna Rosina and her father, my mother's grandfather. And so, my parents courtship began and as my
siblings and I can thankfully attest, or we would not be here, the rest is
On the day that we walked the hills of my mom’s village we came to face to face
with some of my mother’s relatives from her father’s side of the family who I
don’t think my dad was planning on bringing me to see. But they got word that were in the village
and they found us. It was a sobering day
walking around and meeting relatives of my mother’s father's family who were
not kind to my mother and my Nonna.
Nonna and MariaAngelaIt's another story for another day. But to put things in context. After my grandmother and grandfather married and when my mother was three months old, her father set sail with his older brother for the United Stated to make a better way for their family. He left my grandmother and 3 month old mother in the car of his father and over the years he sent back money to support them. My mother's grandfather, her father's father was a wonderful man, he adored my mother and took wonderful care of his daughter-in-law and he made sure that the money that my grandfather sent back from the United States for them took care of all of their needs. My mother adored her grandfather. When she was 7 years old he died and with her father still away in the United States one of his brothers and his wife took over control and were unkind to my mother and grandmother and they endured many hardships over the following years. I had heard some of the over the years growing up. Being the youngest left at home with my siblings married and in homes of their own. I was a sponge soaking up the love and memories my older parents shared. I have always been a bit of a gatekeeper of
family history and I have always been interested in the stories and details that
my grandparents, parents and relatives would share. So as difficult as it was be in the
environment of many of my mother and grandmothers painful memories, I was
grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the amazing woman that I was so blessed to have in my life.
to say I learned a lot of the family history that often stays hidden on that
sobering walk through the village that day.
And when my uncle picked us up at the base of the hill to bring
us back home to his house across the valley my heart was in agony and aching for what my mother
and Nonna endured and experienced and the trials they faced after my mom’s beloved grandfather passed away and unkind and often cruel relatives stepped in to take over control the money that was being sent back for my mother and grandmothers care and they suffered
great hardships. That is a story all its
own and will be left to another day.
head and my heart were swirling with the events of the day when we returned
back to my Zio and Zia’s. After dinner
we relaxed in the courtyard. I shared
some of what I remembered from my mother’s stories, what my dad had told earlier
in the day and the events of the day with my uncle’s wife, my beloved Zia
Assunta, a distant relative of my moms who was married to my dad's brother Vincenzo.
I shared with her about the woman, we met walking the donkey carrying the basket
on her head she told me that my mother did that all the time and she taught me
how to do it myself. I could not believe
that I could balance a basket on my head, for even just a few minutes. For a short while the heaviness of the day
was at bay while we laughed and joked and I tried again and again to balance
the basket until I finally got it and was able to walk with the basket on my head.
as we sat in the courtyard of their house under the starlit August sky sharing more
stories Zia Assunta shared her knowledge of the events and people and some of
the struggles both she and my mother endured as young wives during the war. I learned more of our family history and came
to love this beautiful woman even more as we laughed and cried together. And I came to understand the deep devotion my
Nonna had for praying the rosary and her deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I came to understand the inside of her closet door and all the prayer cards of saints she had plastered all over it. I came to understand my mother’s deep devotion
to her beloved San Gabriele. And in some small part I came to understand where the deep joy that my mom
and especially my grandmother came from despite the years of hardship and trials. Although at the time I’m
not sure I fully understood as I do today. And I am sure that I will say the same years from now, because I know that in no way while I am traveling this journey on earth will I ever fully understand the depth of joy and love that surpasses all understanding. But in certain moments we can catch a slight glimpse. And in those moments I can see they possessed teh dame joyful spirt that
was a hallmark of their patron saint.
And in thinking about what was coming up the next day I was a little apprehensive about going back to have lunch
with this branch of my mom’s family. Not so much about seeing them, but in the confrontations I might have. At the same time, I was excited about our trip to visit Gran Sasso and San Gabriele
shrine the day after that.
the shrill ringing of the phone that broke the early morning silence of the
house as we all slept that morning dramatically changed our plans. My sister Irma called to let us know that mommy
had been rushed into NE Baptist for emergency surgery because a bursa had burst
in her hip, it was serious. We needed to
get home right away. My sister Anna was also
on her way to Massachusetts from Texas. The rest was a whirlwind.
My dad who was always so strong and gently commanding
allowed me to take the lead and make the arrangements to get us back home. And through the process I was able to show
him that he and my mom taught me the Italian language well growing up as speaking
Italian I was able to make the calls and communicate with everyone I encountered at the travel agency in Pescara to make the changes
in our arrangements so we could leave Italy earlier than planned. Arrangements that
were made more difficult by an airstrike over Canada that was also taking place
at the time. San Gabriele was with us
all every step of the way. I think he was working overtime. We made it back not as soon as we
had hoped, but soon enough to greet mommy when she was brought to her hospital room
after first recovering after her surgery in ICU. And when mommy saw us she wasted no time in sharing with us
how she prayed for San Gabriele’s intercession, how she felt his presence there with her and how she longed to make it back
to Italy one day to visit his shrine on Gran Sasso. From that point on it was my mothers great
desire to get back to Italy and to make a pilgrimage to San Gabriele’s shrine to thank
him. And it was mine to go back with her.
my mother was never able to make it back to Italy to her beloved San Gabriele. I had mass cards made for her with her beloved saint. A year or so after her death 7 of us along
with my dad were able to go back in her stead and a group of us made the
pilgrimage to San Gabriele. Along the way I asked my cousin to stop at a florist so I could have a bouget of flowers made to bring with us to place at his tomb.
a blessing to share this time in Italy again with my dad and to also be there
with my sisters, sister-in-law, two of my nieces and my nephew. And for me it
was so important to keep a promise to my mom to make a pilgrimage to Gran
Sasso and the Shrine of San Gabriele in her stead.
Jesus is never to be outdone in generosity.
And I know that San Gabriele is always interceding. And he did in many many ways on this trip. It was a turning point in my life and the beginning of many changes that would eventually lead me on the journey that I am on today,
it was on that second trip to Italy I made it to the Gran Sasso mountain to visit San Gabriel my childhood friend and was led to yet another mountain, the Maiella, where I found healing in
places I never expected and experienced miracles that at the time I didn’t fully
It was through my mom’s
death, our visit to Italy to see our family and our pilgrimage to San Gabriele and the experiences that followed that I deepened my friendship with San Gabriele, found my voice, grew stronger in my faith, found my way back to the church and opened the door of my heart to a deep and personal relationship
with Jesus Christ.
Feast day San Gabriele.
Thank you for
your brief but powerful life, your love of Jesus and your devotion to the sorrows of the Blessed
Thank you for always being a
guiding light in our family, in my mother’s life and in mine.
I pray to make a pilgrimage to your shrine again, this time with my beloved.
Pope Francis dedicated this year in the church to St Joseph and my beloved and I could not be more excited because we both have always had a devotion to St. Joseph.
Years after I had received my annullment I had no intention of every marrying again. But I always remained open and I would tell the Lord that the only way that I would marry again is if he sent me a just man, a good man, a man like St. Joseph. And just when I was settling into a comfortable single vocation the Lord did just that and sent me the greatest gift and blessing of all in my beloved John.
Since the beginning of our relationship we have always prayed together in addition to our individual prayer. So a few months ago when John was gifted the book of the Consecration to St. Joseph as part of his men's sharing group we decided to do the 33 day concecration together. But after a few days we became distracted, then inconsistent and decided not to continue and to do the concecration later.
And the Church has perfect timing because in this Year of St. Jospeh and as a Church we are given the opportunity to draw closer to this beautiful Saint and foster Father of Jesus.
John and I decided to start the concecration on December 22nd with our Concecration Day taking place in 33 days on January 23rd which is the little known Feast of the Holy Spouses.
And as part of our daily concecration we are also praying a rosary on our St. Joseph Beads. Through prayer and discernment with our Spiritual Father my beloved was inspired to create a rosary in honor of St. Joseph and we now have the blessing to add this to our daily prayer.
Today is day three in our 33 days of concecration and in todays reading the author Donald H. Calloway, MIC states " God the Father doesn't have a human nature. Every time Jesus saw Joseph, heard him speak, watched him work,or witnessed his chaste love for Mary, the humanity of Jesus witnessed a perfect reflection of the Heavenly Father"
This gave me pause to reflect on what it must have been like for Jesus growing up, knowing his Divine nature and the surpassing love of God the Father, but seeing that love, goodness and faithfulnes modeled every day in the day to day in his foster father Joseph. Even before Jesus was born, St. Joseph was obedient and trusting the word of God, taking Mary as his wife when she was with child, protecting Mary with Jesus in her womb as they traveled to Bethlehem, caring for Mary when she gave birth in the manger, rising in the dead of night after the Angel came to him and told him to take Mary and the babe Jesus to Egypt and on and on in the many ways that Jesus witnessed the love, care, guardianship and protection of Joseph as he grew.
I love how spiritual readings and the grace of the Holy Spirit can open the door wider to a deeper understanding and provide me with a new lense in which to see St. Joseph and that only serves to give me additional reasons to fall more deeply in love with him.
If you are looking to dive deeper into the life of St. Joseph or looking to come to know him better, check out the book and the concecration.
Or if you like ask Our Lady through the grace of the rosary to help you get to know St. Joseph better.
There is so much to learn about St. Joseph and this my friends is the perfect year to do it!
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,
who is in you, whom you have received from God?
You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I’ve been off track, out of my groove and indulging in too many treats. I know because of how my body feels and because my scale tells me that I am up 7.9 pounds. Frankly I’m shocked I’m not up 20 pounds.
I’m not lamenting or complaining, I don’t feel bad and its not anything that is going to hold me back from continuing to move forward, I’m sharing simply to hold myself accountable and be transparent.
I’m not at all concerned because my mindset is strong and in a very different place than it was years ago when something like this would have had a whole different reaction.
It’s life, it happens. I’m a big girl and I’ve come a long way and I have all the tools and knowledge in my tool belt that I need to get my balance back. And most of all, I’m committed to making the changes to some of the old habits I’ve allowed myself to slip into during these crazy times we’re in.
It’s really pretty simple. And it’s even moreso when you have a badass group of warriors that are in it with you!!
I love the ladies in our Joy in the Journey group, they are sisters, friends and pilgrims on a similar journey of love and faith and good health.
This perspective comes after waking this morning around 5:30 am in a pool of sweat, not unusual for a woman my age, and with a pounding headache. I messaged my group telling them I wasn’t going to make our standing Saturday morning chat at 9am. I felt awful.
I realized that the headache may be from being dehydrated and so I got up, ate a banana for a kick of potassium and drank down a good helping of water. Then laid back down to try and sleep.
Since I couldn’t sleep I started to scroll through a mindset group I recently joined on Facebook. Before I knew it the headache was gone and rather than lay in bed and waste the morning and miss my group I had the motivation I needed to get my butt out of bed and onto the bowflex for a short burst of cardio before my shower.
No hero here, I’ve had a lot of back pain lately, I did an intense few minutes to bring up my cardio, quit when my back pain kicked in, hit the shower and made myself some licorice root tea, fresh squeezed grapefruit over ice, yogurt with museli and a nice jug of water and headed to the office to show up for myself and my group.
And before I went on line, I connected with my beloved, we made plans for getting back to better sleeping habits, meal prep, exercise and working out.
I also got on the scale, pulled out my tracker and made a list of daily goals that I will tackle one day at a time, one baby step if I need to.
Bottom line I have a plan. And I was able to share that with my group.
Easy, of course not.
It’s all about baby steps, listening to my body, keeping a strong mindset and focusing on my goals. And always always finding Joy in the Journey!
And what a great call we had, we are all on the same page and the feedback we share is helpful to all of us. We came up with a plan to remember and revive our WHY and a plan to tackle our GOALS together this summer.
Because that’s what we do, we support and encourage each other, help each other remain accountable, persevere and help each other be the best version of ourselves that we were created to be.
It feels good to have a timeline, a plan, a group of accountability partners and the commitment to reach my goals.
I was created for a beautiful purpose, my body is a temple created by God and I want to serve those I love and to care for my body in a way that honors my creator and that helps me to be the woman that He has created me to be.
I am grateful for the turn of events this morning, its like coming out of the fog and into the bright beautiful light!
Merry Christmas, peace, joy and blessings to you and yours! Stay tuned, 2020 is going to bring a host of new blessings.
For now we end out this year's blog with our Joy in the Journey 2019 December Newsletter
At the beginning of September we celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary and for us the celebration continues as today we celebrate the anniversary of our engagement on the day that John proposed 9 years ago.
Amazing how it feels like decades have passed since we have been together and at the same time like it was yesterday. That's how it is for us, we are so connected and familiar and like we have always been together and at the same time everything seems exciting and new, like the start of a beautiful adventure.
As I recall, it was an unseasonably warm September night 9 years ago when John proposed. Much
like the weather we have enjoyed this week.
We had been out on a date and as often we did, we stopped into
the Adoration Chapel at St. Mary's to pray and sit with Jesus for awhile.
St. Mary's quaint Adoration Chapel is a favorite. I was in the habit of visiting the Blessed Sacrament every day. And I often went there on my own and also with John. I was often there when either the Chapel was empty when I arrived, or only a few people and often everyone would leave and I would remain
in the Chapel alone until someone else showed up. I never had a set hour and sometimes would visit for hours at a time, so I had had many occasions to be there on my own. Just me and Jesus. But that never happened
anytime John and I were there together, there were always other people there
praying as well.
On this night, 9 years ago it was a first, everyone else who was there when
we got there had left. At first I didn't notice that everyone was gone and that
we were the only ones left in the Chapel, just us and Jesus.
John and I were both each silently praying the rosary. John reached for my hand and I thought that was so sweet to hold hands as we prayed. But with my hand in his he stood silently inviting me to stand with him. John then lead me to the altar rail at the
head of this beautiful small chapel where we knelt before Jesus.
Over the years I had often seen people get up and go to the altar, kneel at the rail and pray. But I had never approached
myself. I was thinking that being alone in the Chapel we were going to the
Altar to pray the Rosary at the foot of the Blessed Sacrament.
And so I was a little surprised when as we were both kneeling,
John on his knees turned facing me and he silently encouraged me to kneel facing him. Both of us with our rosaries in hand. Then he reached into
his pocket and pulled out the most beautiful engagement ring. He took my hands and right there with us kneeling at the foot of the altar, alone in the chapel and in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament John professed his love, fidelity, commitment and desire to spend our lives together and he proposed and asked me to be his wife. Tears of love and joy were streaming down my face and I am sure the look of surprise that this beautiful moment was happening was on my face as I too with delight and joy said yes and professed my love, fidelity, commitment and desire to spend our lives together too as he placed the ring on my finger.
It was a proposal and engagement that was perfect for us and our
relationship and it was an experience and moment in time that is and will be
forever etched into my heart.
We stayed at the altar rail together praying to the Lord
offering prayers of praise and thanksgiving. After a time, we returned to our
seats, newly engaged and bursting with excitement to enjoy the moment and to
share the news. And as If on cue people started coming into the Chapel. As more people came in, it was our cue to leave and share the good news with our families.
And there is a bit more to this story that began many months before. The Fede ring that John gave me on August 19th and my engagement and our wedding rings have a beautiful story all their own. They are very special to us and have great sentimental significance not only because of the thought and effort that John put into creating them, but because they are made from a combination of my mothers Italian gold rings and jewelry and John's grandmothers wedding and engagement ring.
John was thinking about proposing and during that time his mother was asking him when he was going to propose. After another inquiry from his mother he told her that he didn't yet have the money for a ring and thought that would stop the inquiry for a bit. But soon after, his mom came to him with his grandmother Albertine's engagement ring and told him that he cold give it to me when he was ready. John was really touched by this knowing that the he owed his relationship with Jesus to his grandmother and now she was helping him to start a new relationship with me. John knew it was going to be special to have me wearing his grandmother's ring but he wanted to make it even more special. He contacted my sister Anna and let her know his plans having a new ring made using the diamonds from his grandmother's ring and wanted to use diamonds from my mother's ring too. Anna told him that I had my mom's jewelry. So he had a decision to make. To stick to his plan he would have to reveal the plan to me and ruin the surprise or he could just use the ring and not add anything to it.
But, my beloved loves to research and so he started looking into the traditions of Italian wedding rings and engagements. He found some information on what is called a Fede ring. The Fede ring was used as engagement/wedding rings in medieval and renaissance times. The name Fede is from the Italian phrase mani in fede ("hands [joined] in faith" or "hands [joined] in loyalty").
So John decided on a third option. He would purchase the Fede ring and give it me as a promise ring and then he could let me know about his plans for the engagement ring.
It was the perfect plan, on August 19th, 2010 John gave me the Fede ring. It was a magical night when he gave me the ring and I was so touched by the thought of him using an Old Italian tradition. And when John told me about his plans for the engagement ring I told him that my mother's ring had a lot of gold but there were no diamonds that could be used in the engagement ring. But the more we talked about it we came up with the solution of having the engagement ring made using the gold from my mother's ring and the diamonds from John's grandmother's ring. And there was enough gold left over from my mother's ring and jewelry to make a copy of the Fede ring from my mother's gold for my wedding band. And we used the gold from John's grandmother's rings to make a larger copy of the Fede ring for John's wedding band. After the initial discussions about what we wanted and giving John my mothers rings and gold, John took care of everything and worked closely with a jeweler friend of ours to have the rings made so I had no idea on the timing.
And it didn't matter. When John gave me the Fede ring we promised ourselves to each other, hands in love, faith, fidelity and loyalty with the thoughtfulness of the mani en Fede he had researched so I had no idea the beautiful surprise that awaited that night in Adoration.
When I look back I can see how the Lord's hand provided the
perfect setting for us to begin our friendship, engagement, marriage and our life together.
The blessings and the growth over the years are many. Our foundation of faith and unity with and in Jesus remains firm. Jesus guides and sustains us both individually and together in our relationship. And little anniversaries, like today, are affirmations and reminders of the grace of Jesus in our lives.
And lest you think our life was and is perfect, it's not. Nothing is. But it's
perfect for us. And our union has always had Jesus in the middle. And thanks be to God for that. Like all couples we have challenges and obstacles amid the
highlight reel. It seems sometimes at every turn we are challenged to grow and stretch and not always how we would like it to be. But in the process we have the opportunity to grow, to get to know ourselves and each other on a deeper level. And in the process we grow closer to each other and individually and as a couple we draw closer to Jesus.
How grateful we are that our hearts and our eyes are open to
His love, we can share it with each other and with those around us and it opens
our hearts to see the many many ways He spoils us.
We are both so thankful to have the special blessing of my engagement and our wedding rings made from John's grandmother, Albertine and my mother, Maria's rings and gold. John is also blessed by his grandmother Albertine who also inspired him to make rosaries. She and his grandfather used to make them when John was young.
Last year after witnessing for years John's blossoming talent and gift of making beautiful and meaningful rosaries and items that deeply touch and bless the lives of others we founded and created Heart's Rosary Company. A business and ministry that is not only a blessing to us, but to so many.
Today, as I think back on the memory of our engagement and the beautiful and special rings that bind us, I offer thanksgiving and praise to Jesus for the gift of my beloved. And I am reminded that our union is not just for us, for it is in the "oneness" that we have become in marriage that together as a couple we can touch the lives of others as we live out our Holy Sacrament of Matrimony.
Yes, Jesus spoils us, He spoils us in many many ways and He gives us so many gifts. And when John and I use the gifts and talents that we receive from Him we can serve others touching their lives and spoiling them with blessings and love from Jesus.
How can my heart not overflow with gratitude and thanksgiving.