Thanksgiving is Coming Soon

November 18, 2011 at 04:53 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Italy, Political Opinions, Spiritual Walk | Leave a comment
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In only a mere week Thanksgiving will be upon us again. Already preparations are under way – house cleaning is in my forefront of necessary evils! Thanksgiving is of course, an American holiday. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated back in 1621 by the Pilgrims with their new Indian friends who helped them survive the first harsh year in a new land. At least that’s the nice story we were always taught in school. The sad reality is that the story is not quite the accurate – or should I say – the full story! Governor William Bradford documented in his diary (Freedomworks) that the original Plymouth Colony was set up to be worked and shared equally amongst all of the Puritans. However that didn’t go quite as planned. It took about 3 years but by 1623 a simple change enacted by the Governor changed the outcome. A parcel of land was given to each family for them to work and use as they saw fit. What they yielded was their own instead of having to split amongst everyone. As a result folks began to want to produce more and to succeed. As a result 1623 was a year to be grateful for most of the Pilgrims and their friends. In my opinion this is actually a better story than the whitewashed one. Funny how history repeats itself – now if we could just learn those hard lessons?

But I digress – this is about how we see Thanksgiving in our family. It is not an Italian holiday in the sense of the American one but October 4th was the Italian harvest Festival Cerelia named for Ceres. She was the goddess of agriculture, grain, and fertility. La Festa del Ringraziamento (Festival of Thanks) is the reference to many religious days for various patron saints in Italy. These are all usually celebrated with family, friends, food, parades – and originally offerings such as first fruits of a harvest in thanks to the saint. The menu choices might not be quite the same but the joy of family and friends together over a splendid table is the same! For example they might offer ravioli con la zucca (pumpkin ravioli). Our family loves the wonderful roasted or smoked turkey – but our stuffing is made with Italian sausage. One of our favorite side dishes is lasagna! And of course we set out a huge antipasto for everyone to indulge themselves with. This week I will work on starting to make some of the cakes ahead of time – we enjoy several different ones all made with the great shaped pans I brought home from Italy. There are fancy fluted ones, tall layer cake pans in pyramid shapes, and fancy bundt style pans. Each lends itself to a shape that matches well with the type of cake batter and ultimate frosting or decorations used. Some are doused with Italian liquors or others sprinkled with sweet confetti candy. These line up next to the traditional pumpkin or mince pies in addition to an apple and a key lime pie! For myself, I cannot bear Thanksgiving without my mom’s creamed onions – and I am so grateful she is still with us to celebrate and well enough to make another batch of creamed onions!

So as I am cleaning house all week, knowing in no time the muss and fuss of cooking will begin, I find myself complaining that I have so much stuff to clean and so many rooms too! Then I realize how grateful I am that I have a home large enough to accommodate all of us when so many are homeless through no fault of their own. And then I resent that I have to work the night before instead of being home to get enough sleep before I start on the turkey and all the vegetables. And then I realize how blessed I am to have a job when so many do not. I think about how much food I must prepare and for how many people ( usually 26). Then I count again my blessings – I have enough food to feed my family and extended family! I have a beautiful family – and they all want to be together out of love, not obligation. And then I know the reality of my story – Count it ALL joy! I am truly and wondrously blessed!

The Tongue IS Mightier Than The Sword!

January 30, 2011 at 00:55 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Current Events, family history, genealogy, Political Opinions, Spiritual Walk | 1 Comment
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This is another one of those posts that isn’t sure where it belongs. It is alternating positions from genealogy to politics to religion and back again. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your dear readers (all 1 or 2 of you) could not make it fit elsewhere! Within the families I research there were at various times several family feuds taking place. Seems someone managed to find a reason to be distrustful or even downright hateful over someone or something else. This amongst families who prided themselves on being “god-fearing” decent folks! Consequently researching those families at times I am met with a branch pruned off our tree when it should still be flourishing.

Back on my honeymoon I had a missed opportunity to take a photograph of a family member – an elderly person so I should have known better. Foolishly I thought I would have another opportunity but of course that did not happen. I not only did not get that photograph, no one recalled her correct name. Were there valid reasons for the family rift? Sure. Was it worth not keeping family together? No. Thanks to younger generations learning that painful lesson, we are all benefitting from reuniting the family. I was blessed to have someone find me on a social networking site and even sharing photographs with me. Cousins are getting to reunite and getting to meet newer family members. It’s nice.

One of the other families has a member who took off for an adventure. They never wrote home again or called. Several of us are looking for that person – we have been for a couple years now. No trace, no mentions anywhere. It’s as if they never lived. It is hard to understand why they no longer wanted family. Stranger still that family did not try to keep connected with them because no one could point to a specific problem. Even the family stories never included a remark about this person. Just gone?

One family member decided to marry someone not approved of by the parents for the odd reason of being from another town. “Those” people weren’t as “good”. Or some such foolishness. The marriage lasted through the birth of several children and well into their eighties. Theirs was an incredible love story when men were not so openly professing their devotion to their wives. They stand holding hands in the only known photograph taken just before his death.

I have unfortunately also seen family feuds amongst the church family. Back a few generations most family members didn’t have the option of leaving one church to go to another one. Here in America rural communities usually had one Protestant or one Catholic church. Later there would be more choices and larger cities would also offer others. In Italy most towns only had one parish priest and one church so folks learned to get along or not attend. Sadly now churches seem to splinter frequently or people jump from church to church each time something or someone upsets them. Further those disagreements often take very public and very messy turns especially when the preacher or priest is involved in the disagreement!

And then we come to those public families such as blogs or politics. Nothing sets me on edge, teeth jarring, nerves screeching like fingernails scraping on a blackboard like flame wars on blogs. How is it we can all find ways to banter and chat on a forum, everyone getting along even as they may disagree about problems and solutions until some unknown spark sets off a maelstrom of epic proportions? Suddenly one poster will call out another and off everyone goes huffing and puffing. Name-calling is usually only the least of it. Worse are the threats to drag someone through a “Joe the Plumber” scenario. Google bombs are created to publically harass and humiliate. If Google isn’t enough we can then also subject them to YouTube recordings to live forever in the bowels of the Internet. Some have even had the distinction of driving weaker victims to suicide via the social network. I personally love to read all sorts of blogs and follow all sort of political viewpoints. I tend to lean conservative on most issues but thanks to incidents within my own life, I often understand and even (Horrors! Gasp!) agree with some liberal views also. The last election cycle was a wonder to behold. Members of the conservative family have taken great delight in devouring their own young. The slightest difference of opinion has no room for acceptance.

Granted sometimes we have valid reasons to walk away from a loved one or family member. I just wish we would try to find it in our collective hearts to think long and hard before we say or do things that amount to pruning that branch off the tree. Admittedly I am not a super green thumb but I have learned one lesson over time. When you carelessly whack off branches too aggressively without care or in the wrong season, the tree dies. Soon that branch rots where it was pruned and the whole tree trunk is infected and dies.

Perhaps it was best said long ago – “The tongue is mightier than the sword.”

Genealogy and Politics

January 23, 2011 at 00:26 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Current Events, Political Opinions, Somber Sunday, Spiritual Walk | 5 Comments
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This may seem like a strange blog entry for a blog about genealogy but I felt compelled to not ignore this news story. This doctor was one who wanted to make money and I question his morals given the methods of his clinic. I am not going to recount all the horrific details – you can read here and there and more and still more for yourselves. Yet it is too easy to say he is a mass murderer or that this is about a serial killer saving trophies and not about abortion. But it is all of that and more/worse. Our news outlets are trying to avoid deeper discussions and I understand the political reasons even if I disagree with them. Abortion is a deeply personal issue (or should be) that is often guided by what is politically accepted rather than by spiritual reasons. I would suggest gently here that women should spend more time reflecting on their views in spiritual terms no matter what religion they practice or adhere to. I understand that women wanted control of their bodies and the rights to their freedom of choice – along with increased personal advancement in careers and finances and socially. I really do get it. I was a young college student through the Vietnam era as women began advocating and marching and protesting to gain all those freedoms and rights. I personally have been subjected to the glass ceiling and career choices and all of that because I was a woman. Matter of fact I had a wonderful father who advocated for my rights before it was fashionable to do so. My guidance counselor in high school insisted I had to take a typing course although I wanted another elective in a foreign language. I was taking one language but wanted a second course. The counselor repeated to me over and over that I needed typing. That night at dinner my father and I talked long and hard about my choices and limits. The next morning he went in person to the school and he publically informed the principal and entire staff of his decision for his daughter. Now mind you, dad was a well-known and well-respected local businessman so everyone did give him a listen! He told them all very calmly (no yelling and no obscenities) that his daughter would indeed be taking a second foreign language because she had no need of a typing course to “fall back on”. He wanted them to understand that his daughter would not be falling back on anything – she was going to be the executive hiring the secretary to do her typing and by the way – he would probably be a very nice fellow who would not only type but answer phones politely!

Well years later I have not forgotten the faith my father had in my abilities but I do understand how young women may be brought to a point of feeling they don’t have enough choices or chances. So my point is now not whether or not abortion is a right or a choice or an option. Rather it is that have we become so convinced that it is such a “hot potato” to even discuss, that we now shy away from the bigger questions? Why was no one asking the tough questions about this clinic in Philadelphia? Why was it assumed all those poor women and sadly young gals wanted those abortions? Why were authorities so sure that because it was an abortion clinic there was no need to have health inspections or oversight of any kind? What about licensing for the workers? Why were there no suggestions of follow-up care? It is easy right now to lay blame on liberal politicians and officials in Philadelphia, but really? Does your state regulate and inspect and follow up? What agencies are supposed to be involved? Who actually knows to whom violations are reported? Are there easily found numbers? Are those phone numbers posted where patients and family or friends can see them?

Lest you think it is easy for me to judge without walking in anyone else’s shoes – my husband and I have been there too. We were broke and expecting. A doctor diagnosed me with cancer. We had no health insurance. Well actually we had some but it was rotten self pay insurance. The doctor decided my best alternative under the circumstances was an abortion/hysterectomy. I didn’t agree. Medical insurance got all the “out” they needed to not pay – I was rejecting the doctor’s advice. Second and third opinions matched the first doctor’s choice. Then I went to a doctor who had a spiritual relationship with God that allowed him to offer me another opinion. I had an alternative even if there were no medical guarantees with it. I at least had a choice. I took it and my son was born the day before Christmas 26 years ago. He was our best gift ever! He suffered no ill effects so we were doubly blessed in opposition to what we had been warned to expect. Now he is the father of two beautiful girls himself. So let me bring this back to genealogy. Consider what your family tree and legacy would be if all those women in your family tree chose to not continue a pregnancy? Consider also if you honestly feel they would have been better off if they had? I am not going to tell you what my personal opinions are because that is for each woman to choose for herself. Hopefully it will be a choice she makes after being given all the options. Hopefully she will have someone to pray with, to talk with, and to cry with if need be. Is that then where we need to start this discussion over? Are we throwing more and more money into what is considered politically correct in order to avoid dealing with other issues? Why are we not correcting errors in our educational systems? Why are we not fostering improved parenting? Why are not offering more counseling? Do we want to create a bigger nanny system or do we need to? Lots of questions and I am not setting myself up as an authority with all the answers. But I do have more questions. Have we, are we doing all we can to not shy away from the “hot potato” parts of this discussion? Are we so afraid of what is politically correct that we have forgotten the real people paying the ultimate price for a politician wanting one more vote? I am reminded of one simple verse: “Jesus wept…….”

Treasure Chest Thursday September 11

September 9, 2010 at 01:04 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, Current Events, family history, memories, Political Opinions, Treasure Chest Thursday | Leave a comment
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This date is a horrid one for most Americans. Where September used to stand for end of summer, back to school, first whiffs of Autumn leaves and bonfires, it has now become a remembrance of the shock for baby boomers to taste a war-like scenario on US soil. Our sense of security, of world power via being loved and ‘right’ has been shaken. For many it has meant a long drawn out process of rethinking who we as a nation and as individuals are. This time has also seen a change in the country’s economic status affecting al of us. It has also meant reassessing what is important to each of us going forward. For me, it has meant a reassessment of our countries politics and policies as well as a reassessment of our place in global issues. It has brought about a deeper commitment to spiritual values and what they should mean on an everyday basis in addition to my own personal internalizing. More importantly it has brought about a deeper appreciation for what family means to me personally as well as a deeper appreciation for what our ancestors went through in their lives.

As a child I grew up hearing stories about my parents growing up during the depression years. My mother talked of her father traveling out of town for work returning home on the weekends. She also told of their wonderful gardens where they grew much of their vegetable and herb needs. My dad told about not being in school yet but following the bigger kids as they collected lumps of coal dropped by trains to take home for family furnaces. He also told how at the same age he followed the bigger kids to bread lines and to get potatoes. His parents hadn’t sent him, but he caught on quickly from other kids and knew it meant more heat or more food if he participated too! Valentino grew up in post war Italy. His family had struggled before, during, and after the war. His mom’s family were farmers so they grew plenty of food whenever and wherever possible. They would work the bits of soil between rocks to plant one plant per spot if necessary. They owned several small pieces of land meaning they would work one area for one crop and go to another for another crop. It meant a several mile walk daily to tend their food supply. Recently the Publics grocery store near our home was torn apart to undergo remodeling. All of us in the neighborhood have complained that it means a drive of an extra two or three miles to the next store. Only one other neighbor and I attempt to grow any vegetables at all – and we are struggling at it! Our herbs are wonderful but we seem not to be too successful at vegetables other than tomatoes or peppers. I suspect my tomatoes grew at some sort of bargain price under ten dollars each but I might be wrong! On the other hand my rosemary is a bumper crop and I have enough to supply most third world nations with rosemary and basil! I think my ancestors would all be mortified – especially my in-law ancestors!

So as I reflect back on the 9/11 tragedies and the lives of my ancestors, I am grateful for what our family passed on to us. I am blessed we lost no one in 9/11 or the subsequent war. I am blessed that our family passed on a spiritual foundation for Valentino and I to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren. And as I contemplate the US and her place in the global view, I am grateful that I was raised in a nation that in spite of her faults is still a wonderful place to raise a family without fear of a knock on the door at night or worse.

Liberation Day April 25th

April 25, 2010 at 22:00 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Current Events, Itri, Italy, memories, Political Opinions, Somber Sunday | 1 Comment
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Liberation Day is celebrated in Italy on April 25th. This is a day to remember being liberated at the end of WWII. There are wonderful parades in all the small towns as well as the major ones all throughout Italy. We enjoyed watching the parades in Cavezzo, a small town not far from Carpi and Modena in the Emilia-Romagna Region.

Sadly this year saw demonstrations turned nasty even in Rome – people the world over are frustrated with their governments, but let’s not forget that Liberation Day is to commemorate the sacrifices made on behalf of freedom-loving people suffering through WWII. Don’t toss that off lightly because we are unhappy now. Rather let us all remember and appreciate the awful prices our ancestors paid to give us life and for the hope of future generations. I have written before about Valentino’s family and the horrors they went through. I often wonder how they managed. I too often suspect we of this generation would not have the strength of spirit or heart to face those challenges now. How would those who live in 40 and 50 floor apartment buildings manage without electricity to run elevators? How would all those city dwellers manage to grow food without yards? It was a different time, granted. Yet we need to consider how very brave and daring they were – how self-sustaining and independent they were, willing to meet all challenges to bring about the end of the war. They often prayed it would be the war to end all wars. Sadly there are those who are only too willing to forget that. I don’t claim to know the answers to end war or to broker peace. But I do want to say thank you for those ancestors who did play a part to bring about Liberation for Europe (and Asia later) and pray we never become insensitive to their sacrifices on all our behalves!

This memorial stands outside the Church of the Annunziata in the center of Itri. The inscription reads:

revered corpses

Itri

To her heroes of all the wars all who come of the cross without waiting for the resurrection.

So too we offer prayers for all those of all the towns of Europe and everywhere!

Another Blog and Changes Here

November 22, 2009 at 16:30 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Current Events, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories, Political Opinions, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have decided to make some changes to my blogging habits – hopefully for the better! This blog is going to be for things related primarily to my Italian research and all things Italian genealogy related. I have started another blog Valentino’s  Wife that I hope you will all visit and subscribe to. I also hope it will be a place to generate more discussion between all of us! It will have similar limits to use such as this blog – everyone is welcome and invited to comment but I want everyone to be respectful of everyone else. Although I prefer to keep it open, please remember sometimes children come along possibly unsupervised so no outright obscenities please!!! We are supposed to be the adults! Ha!

Valentino’s Wife will be a bit more loosley organized in certain ways. We will take a more open approach to discussing events, politics, religion, family, recipes, travel — whatever strikes our fancy – and by ‘our’ I mean all of us. I want your input too! If there is sometihing of interest you want to talk about – tell me! We won’t quite be an open forum but similar in that I will make a post and hopefully all of you will join the conversation! In any event – the posts there will not be rehashes of what is here so visit both – and feel free to join in!

Tombstone Tuesday September29, 2009

September 29, 2009 at 00:01 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Italy, memories, Political Opinions, Tombstone Tuesday | Leave a comment
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WWII Pillbox  Avellino

WWII Pillbox Avellino

 
First View Avellino, Rome area
First View Avellino, Rome area
Avellino Cemetary

Avellino CemetaryAvellino

September 11

September 11, 2009 at 08:16 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Current Events, Political Opinions | 2 Comments
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Today many of us are recalling where we were that fateful morning. How many times do we do that exercise concerning the extreme events of our lives? Where were we when the call came that so and so died or was in an accident? I remember where I was for the Big Blackout of the 1960′sw, the riots of the Democratic Convention, the assassinations of JFK and RFK, the first Space Shot for the US, the first step on the moon, the Day the Shuttle blew up (both of them, I witnessed the first in person here in Florida) – my list goes on and on.

And I remember 9-11. That particular morning I was at work, alone in the office. I had a little portable 9 inch TV without cable. I was listening and watching The Today Show as background noise instead of the radio. It seemed time stood still as I watched the first video images of the plane hitting the Tower. Over and over it was played and I could not look away. My boss phoned in, he had heard the radio and wanted to know if I was watching it on the TV. We were in shock as then the second plane hit. We knew then it was not merely a tragic accident but something more sinister. And I cried. The decision was made to close the office immediately – we would do no more business that day but go to our families to be together, to hold them, to love them, to pray for others. No one knew if we were at war or what the next steps would be. We never suspected within a short time that we would hear the tragedy of two more planes approaching their destinations. Life as we knew shrieked to a halt!

I’m the mother of four sons. I began to feel a deep pain in me, deep in the pit of my soul that mothers have felt from time eternal. Would my sons be called to go to war, would we hang stars in the front window? Would this be like other wars? Pride and fear mingled as my young sons discussed their futures. Still too young to go into the service, they nevertheless were realistic and willing to serve if needed. No false visions of glory of war blinded them. They had seen the ravages of the family home that had been bombed to almost nothing in WWII before their father was born. Our family did not lose anyone that fateful day and yet it felt as if everyone lost was part of our family. I cried with each poignant story or photo wall or missing person’s poster that was shown. I felt their despair as so many searched for any shred of information about missing family.

I refuse to be pulled into the political fracas of groups such as The 9-11 Truthers. This tragedy was already politics at its worst. It was and is equal to any other war declared or not. I wish, no, I pray that we have had enough lives lost, enough wars. I pray for better solutions, better diplomacy but the reality of life is that wars exist. Mankind is not perfect. People fight, argue, rob, steal, kill. If we cannot convince father to not beat wives, to not rape children, to not kill each other or teenagers to not kill for someone else’s IPhone, war will not cease as men fight over land. War will not go away and men will not be tolerant of the rights of others to live, to exist. When we have zero murders in our small towns and our large cities, then maybe we can share how with other countries to live a better way. Apologizing to them for slights real or imagined will not make them like us or listen to us. Telling another country to stop building bombs will not guarantee them obeying or caring what our opinion is. Have we been a perfect country? No. Do I believe our government is perfect? No. DO I believe our government caused, or even allowed 9-11 to happen? Do I believe they knew and turned a blind eye? No. Is it possible I am wrong? Of course. But our country is still one of the greater ones. Since the beginning people have struggled and been willing to risk death to come here. They still do. They come because they dream of a better life here, convinced that what we offer is better than what they have. Few try to build rafts to sail from her to anywhere else. Our celebrities tell us that other countries are better, that we are wrong. They tell us those other leaders, dictators are really heroes and intelligent individuals. Fine – but then why do they choose to stay here and enjoy the benefits of our evil capitalistic society? Our country has not always been perfect and yes, she has even been wrong. But she has always been willing to give of herself to others and help where ever and whenever she can. She has joined in fights not of her own choosing, not of her own making.

One thing is certain as I reflect back on 9-11. It has been said that for one moment in time, one proud moment we were all Americans, all one family united in our pain and in our resolve. I say we are still one family. All of us. We are united still in our pain and in our pride and resolve. Some of us choose never to forget, to not lay blame at the foot of Lady Liberty. Rather we choose to support her tired arm as she holds up her torch. We are proud of our country – we still grieve for those lost on 9-11 and we will not forget them. We will not let their deaths be in vain to serve other’s agendas. This country is still the home of the brave, the home of the free. We are willing still to rescue those in need.

Sleep well precious souls of 9-11, sleep well. We stand guard still. We will not forget you – we stand united in our resolve, our pride, our love.

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