Apologies to My Blog Friends – Treasure Chest Thursday

January 7, 2010 at 04:15 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, Spiritual Walk, Treasure Chest Thursday | 2 Comments
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What does this have to do with a Treasure Chest? My most treasured moments have to do with my marriage and family. As I am sure many of you have noticed by now, new posts stopped in December. Please accept my apologies for that but Valentino was hospitalized as an emergency and our holidays took a back seat to his health! 2009 has not been the happiest of years for so many of us – we have argued religion, racism, politics, and so much more. I have preferred to not argue most of that here on this famiy oriented blog but rather to concentrate on the happier thoughts of family.

For those of you who have strong faith or spiritual viewpoints, I feel we  as a family were blessed to not face some of the more serious issues that could have been possible during this latest hospitalization. I am grateful for the caring wonderful staff at Wuesthoff Hospital where I also work. Although I tried to keep up with the holidays at home for family’s sake, it was my work family who surrounded us in love and friendship. I am blessed to not only have a job in these difficult times but to have one with a great team of people at my side!

I will be back to a much more regular blogging schedule now that life is settling back to our usual routine! God bless all – I pray for a blessed and joyous New Year for all of you!

UPDATE: Thanks for the wonderful emails and comments – I appreciate all of you!

Advent Calendar – Other Traditions

December 11, 2009 at 09:08 | Posted in Advent Calendar, Carnival of Genealogy, Italy, Spiritual Walk | Leave a comment
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Nativity

 This posting is supposed to be about other traditions such as those brought from overseas by ancestors. In our family’s instance, the tradition was brought to us by Valentino. He came from Italy where his family did not have Christmas trees until he was a teenager. Rather they used like most Italians a presepe display. Presepi are nativity sets but so much more than those we are used to here in the United States. Their displays are huge panoramas of Bethlehem! Interestingly these are often figures dressed in the garb native to the area where the owners live. For example, in Northern Italy it is not uncommon to see a more Bavarian look to figures. Napoli, where many famous and skilled artisans live and work often make the nativity figures to include famous persons. This year there are many versions of our President Obama being sold! But that is not the style Valentino grew up with!

His displays were something he and his brother would save their coins for all year long. During the Christmas season they would buy new figures to add to their growing display. He even remembers figures of Roman soldiers with swords holding a baby aloft! The first few years we set up our display, it was modest to his standards but my family loved it! By 1981 we had moved to Florida and purchased our first home. It was exciting to begin to build on our Christmas display. Valentino would set up a big sheet of plywood outside on our front porch area and he made a Bethlehem scene for our presepe. He covered the wood in sand and made ‘roads’ out of flour. He even had mountains he shaped out of chicken wire bases covered with brown burlap and stiffened with resin. We chose Fontanini figures for our nativity because of their classical Italian look and the fact they were virtually unbreakable. That was an important feature for our children’s sake! We began to fashion our own buildings too. Every evening we would take our own children outside and talk abo9ut the display with them, allowing them to touch and move figures. Soon we found neighbors and their children would come to look at our display too. Valentino would then each evening tell another part of the nativity story and share its meaning with the children. He would every day move the 3 kings closer to the stable where there was Mary and Joseph and animals – but no Babe. He would not be there be there until December 24th! That, too, is an Italian tradition. Valentino never caught his mother but she would somehow mysteriously manage to have the Babe appear in the manger each Christmas Eve without anyone seeing her!

Our display began to attract quite a bit of interest from friends and others over the years so we also made smaller version displays for our church. This too was something Valentino had experience with. His brother and several friends made a permanent display in Itri, Italy at the Sanctuario Madonna della Civita! That display is still there!

Once we moved to our current home, our display had grown too large and too valuable to leave outside. We began to make much more elaborate displays as finances allowed and we added more figures. We were most fortunate to travel to Bagna di Lucca to the Fontanini factory and we met several of the Fontanini family members. That wetted our appetites to grow our display! It became such a labor of love that we delight in sharing with neighbors, friends, coworkers each holiday season! We encouraged the tradition with our sons and each was gifted with their favorite style of Fontanini nativity sets also for when they are ready to begin their own family traditions!




Advent Calendar Grab Bag December 9th

December 9, 2009 at 10:13 | Posted in Advent Calendar, Carnival of Genealogy, memories, Spiritual Walk | 3 Comments
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We had one Christmas that for our family will always be a special one for our family. It was 1984 and I was ill that year. I was thrilled when we found I was expecting our third child. We wanted a big family. I loved being pregnant and loved having children. I knew from the time I was a young child that I wanted to be a wife and a mother. Every decision in my life revolved around being a mother. But then only a month pregnant, we were handed devastating news. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I fit none of the criteria for someone at risk but there it was – cancer. The doctors immediately wanted me to start medical treatment which would include an abortion. The emotions rollercoaster I was facing was amplified of course by hormones. One thing I was sure of though was that I could not have an abortion. For me this was not an option. I knew that God would not honor a covenant of life with me if I did not honor one with Him. I offer no political discourse or condemnation of others who choose differently, only that this was true for me. The doctors here in Florida were not happy with my decision.

That summer we drove back to my hometown in Connecticut and I visited the ob-gyn group who has delivered our first son and talked. As they listened, they offered support and love. If I were still living there, they would have had no problem with seeing me through this decision. They actually agreed with my decision. They felt much of the treatment could wait until after delivery. They did want me to have a procedure done while pregnant to remove as much of the cancer as possible but it did carry a risk of miscarriage so it was important to be at a place where I could stay and maintain bed rest, not travel. We returned to Florida and I began the hunt for a doctor. A girlfriend found one in Jacksonville where she lived who would accept me for treatment. We met and my husband and I knew he was a great fit for us. He felt the risk was great but he was willing to do everything he could medically to help me! And so I moved myself to Jacksonville with my girlfriend’s family. The plan was for my mother and my husband to care of my two young sons back at home. The surgery went better than expected, buying me time to not need further chemo treatment during pregnancy. There were many special incidents while I was in the hospital that proved to me that God was in control but those will be saved for another post another day. This post is about Christmas.

I returned home after thirty days and spent the next few months in prayer and on bed rest. I trusted the Lord that no matter what was to happen; it was all part of His Plan. The evening of December 23rd, I suddenly began to experience back pains that I was sure were labor even though Daniel was not quite due for another couple weeks. By the time I arrived at the hospital, I knew he was not waiting! We brought along a cassette player and had soft hymns of praise playing softly in the birthing room. A short one hour and twelve minutes later Daniel arrived! We were blessed with our third son, healthy and perfect in spite of all I had been through. The next morning was December 24th, Christmas Eve. When we left the hospital, Daniel was slipped inside a huge Christmas stocking, a gift from the hospital Pink Ladies!

I would less than 2 years later have another son even though doctors told me it would not be possible to get pregnant again. And I would again face another bout of cancer within that year after Vinny being born more serious than this occurrence. I would also experience God’s blessings through my cancer and I would be healed in spite of doctors’ predictions of impending death. But it was this Christmas that we realized God’s gift to us as our son was born. He was indeed the most precious gift my husband and I could ever wish for — and that was a very special Christmas indeed!

Advent Calendar Christmas Memories – Santa Claus

December 5, 2009 at 23:33 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy | 1 Comment
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As a very small child I was a very devoted believer of Santa Claus. We would always be taken to one of the stores or some party to have our photos taken with Santa Claus. For some reason only one of me survived all these years. Every year I bring this out on display as a reminder of my childhood and the wonderful memories. I was positive that Santa knew who was naughty and nice – I sure tried to be nice, although I know I tested my parents!

I was about 2 the year my dad was Post Commander for the local Naval Vets Club. They had wonderful Christmas parties for the families. That year I managed to be a whiney sick child, crying and rubbing my eyes with sweet red mittens my mother knit for me. By the time we were home it was obvious I had a bad cold getting worse fast along with conjunctivitis. The doctor was called (remember when doctors still made house calls?). A previous Furry Friends Friday post found HERE tells the story of how badly I wanted Smokey the Bear Teddy Bear. My dad went to the Christmas presents hidden in the garage attic and gave him to me as an early gift. That was the only gift I paid attention to that year. A new family tradition was started – the giving of a special gift from Mom and Dad each Christmas Eve and the rest from Santa on Christmas morning! Smokey still occupies a place of honor each Christmas at my home!

My husband heard stories of Babo Natale while growing up in Italy but it was La Befana who brought their small gifts on Three Kings Day each year. Christmas Eve was Midnight Mass and Christmas Day they celebrated with a special feast for the entire extended family. La Befana was the old woman on her broom searching for the Christ Child.

As we raised our sons, we would tell them all the usual Christmas tales such as Rudolph, Jack Frost, The Snowman, etc. but we were careful to be sure they understood this was all part of the fun of Christmas magic and only tales. We wanted them to understand the True Christmas Miracle was the Christ Child. So we would share stories of Saint Nicklaus visiting children long ago to share that same story of the birth of Christ with small gifts for them.

Advent Calendar Christmas Memories Italian Holiday Foods

December 5, 2009 at 06:02 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy | Leave a comment
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Growing up in Italy, Valentino remembers the wonderful Christmases with his family. They kept the tradition of the 7 Fishes for Christmas dinner. They would all go to Midnight Mass together on Christmas Eve at the small church near his home. Only a few doors from their house, the family would all walk together. Christmas Day all the extended family would gather for a huge feast. Mama Concetta had spent hours cooking for everyone. Although the family was quite poor in Post WWII Italy in the early 1950s, he remembers the food at Christmas always seeming to fill the table to overflowing!

There would be the traditional fried smelts, small fish dipped in flour and fried. Then vinegar and garlic would be sautéed for a moment and poured warm over the smelts. Bacala (dried cod) was served along with big platters of steamed mussels. There would be fresh anchovies with basil and lemon, calamari in oil and fried, perhaps a white clam sauce over pasta. Naturally there would be huge bowls of Seafood Fra Diavolo.

We still try to keep this tradition for our family. Many times over the years we were not always able to afford all the fish varieties but we would spend time in the kitchen making the seven dishes with what we had. We live in Florida so our sons would go fishing and shrimping with their dad. They would also catch crabs so we would manage to save a nice assortment for the feast! When our finances began to improve we added stuffed lobster tails to our menu too!

Advent Calendar Christmas Memories Outdoor Decorations

December 5, 2009 at 00:16 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy | 1 Comment
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As a child I remember always going on wonderful drives with the whole family piled in the car to see the Christmas lights. Living in Connecticut, we usually had snow and it was always so beautiful to the multi=colored lights reflected on the snow! One of our homes shared a steep downhill driveway with the next door neighbor (my father’s business partner). They strung a great long set of Santa with his sleigh and reindeer across the driveway between the two houses. It was made of a vinyl or plastic that lit up. We loved that decoration! Unfortunately the older plastics did not last as long. The cold and the changes in temperature took their toll eventually.

When Valentino and I moved to Florida we wanted to keep that type of Christmas spirit alive. We covered our house in lights ala Clark Griswald in Christmas Vacation! Valentino grew up in Italy so the presepi was always important to him. He built a beautiful 8 foot display on our front porch for all the neighbors to come and see complete with a replica of Bethlehem. Each evening he would entertain the younger children with the Christmas story, moving the figures about the display – showing them how the kings traveled to Bethlehem to see The Babe! The figures were Fontanini and non-breakable so he would let the children touch! After all Christmas is for children! Within a couple years all the neighbors began a friendly competition with us putting out more and more elaborate displays of lights! Then about 15 years ago we moved to our current home. We began again to decorate the outside – both front and backyards! We lost our huge oak tree this year to lightning but in years past we strung lights all through the tree – I say we but it was my sons who would climb into the top branches to hang the lights!

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Christmas Cards

December 4, 2009 at 23:44 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy | Leave a comment
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Musical Card from Italy

Musical Card from Italy

 Every year we would write out Christmas Cards. My mother would hang them on windows or doors to show them off. A few times she also used a small mailbox to hold them but then they would be tucked inside so that wasn’t as much fun. Often she would stand them opened on cabinets to be seen too. She always was organized with lists that she had checked off who sent the year before or not. After all she was writing out a couple hundred to family, friends, neighbors, and dad’s clients and business associates too! When dad retired, the list shortened as it did as postage began the creep upwards in price.

I remember getting wonderful cards from my grandmother every year. She loved to write letters and send cards every chance she got so at Christmas she would send us each our own special cards. The tradition carried on as my children were born too. Over the years although I tried to save them, most were destroyed in floods from a hurricane!

Now each year I sit and write out my own cards, usually Thanksgiving weekend. Like my mother, I prefer to have them in the mail by the first of December – I figure they’re fun to enjoy all month that way! As I receive our cards, I have tape ready and hang them on a door for everyone to see and read and enjoy. They become part of our decorations!

My favorites are from friends that I haven’t seen in years but still gab with on the phone or write to semi-often. We have been friends since childhood and it is wonderful to reminisce together!

The two cards here are from a nephew and his family in Italy. I have saved them because he and the family are so precious to us! The yellow card is a fantastic one that plays a Christmas Carol when it is opened! The other is an elegant postcard with such a gorgeous picture.  

Postcard from Italy

Monday Madness – La Befana

November 23, 2009 at 15:18 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Fun Reminders of Italy, Italy, Madness Monday, memories, Spiritual Walk | 4 Comments
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It may seem a bit early to many but for me it is typical. It is the week of Thanksgiving – and while I am thinking of all the blessings in my life in anticipation of Thursday, I am also thinking about Christmas. Like most Christians, I realize I am blessed most because of God’s gift of His Son – the Babe who was born Christmas morn!

So now you ask what this possibly has to do with Monday Madness or La Befana. Well, to be honest, I am feeling a lot like La Befana this year, more than ever as a matter of fact! La Befana is the Italian version of Santa Claus – although children also know Babo Natale. The Italian children all anxiously await the visit of La Befana. La Befana was an older woman who spent her life cleaning and cooking with her broom not far away from her grasp. Finally came the evening that 3 Wise Men stopped at her door. Greeting them with her broom in hand, she refused to go with them on their search for the Babe. After all she had cleaning and sweeping to do! Suddenly a few moments after they left, she realized what she had been asked. They were searching for the Baby Jesus! How could sweeping possibly be more important than that?! She ran after them, fast as she was able. Suddenly her broom took her aloft and she flew over rooftops searching to no avail. So now year after year she flies out again in search leaving small gifts in children’s stockings in hopes she finds the Babe!

Monday Madness? Yes indeed. See, it is holiday time and I am in full meltdown mode already. I am the world’s best list maker. I think I’ve mentioned before how writing lists helps me to calm through organization. Seeing it in writing means I can manage in smaller bites, crossing off as I go along. So here I am. List Time. The Thanksgiving menu has been rewritten at least three times and I have no idea why. It never varies from year to year. I suspect that is the problem. I really REALLY want to add something new. This year we decided to eliminate one item. I KNOW that will be a mistake that we will hear about for years to come – 2009 was the Thanksgiving WITHOUT lasagna. There ARE two turkeys and a ham though! Course there’s also half the friend’s list to feed! Why should I feel so frazzled, already worrying about decorating for Christmas? It is family tradition here in the Di Crocco household: the Saturday after Thanksgiving is DECORATE DAY! Out come boxes and boxes of decorations. Everything is unwrapped from the tissue paper and Bubblewrap™, lovingly placed out to think about Christmases past and people associated with each decoration. So many were from my grandmother and mother or from special friends. Every year meant a new ornament for each child, dated and signed with their name.

But back to Monday Madness. This year I am thinking more in terms of how blessed we are as a family. We have had our share of tragedies and sorrows along with the joy. We have family members out of work and struggling. Bills go up while paychecks remain static. Yet, I do have a job. It is one that gives me pride. It’s not one that pays enough to cover what I want covered but I am so much more blessed than others. In the midst of all the holiday frenzy and complaining about how much I have to do without enough time or money, I suddenly am forced to stop. Have I become lost like La Befana? Has sweeping the cobwebs become more important than remembering what the upcoming season is really about and what is really important? This year I want Monday Madness to settle to Calm, Peace, and Tranquility. Not just for me but for everyone. If I must rush from place to place, task to task. Let it be to share the Gift I have been blessed with. Not just to witness of my personal spiritual walk by testifying verbally. Rather, let me share my faith and my values by my deeds, my actions, my sense of peace, by love. Let me show love instead of, in spite of, and in the very face of hatred. Let me now unlike La Befana be willing and able to drop my broom.

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!

Treasure Chest Thursday – Memories

November 20, 2009 at 03:51 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Treasure Chest Thursday | Leave a comment
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Thursday is always Treasure Chest Day for Carnival of Genealogy fans. This Thursday, November 19th, was bittersweet for me. My own father was born on November 19th – he’s been gone since 1983 and I still miss him as if it were this year! He died way too young with no warning for any of us. None of us had a chance to say goodbye because it was so unexpected. I was blessed in that we spoke about twenty minutes earlier – and to my everlasting horror/macabre sense of humor, our last conversation including mentioning death. He was going to pick up his grandson and go to Dunkin Donuts and then home so they could ‘supervise’ a construction crew together. I laughingly told my dear father, “Oh Dad! Some day I am going to bury you with Dunkin Donuts! They sure are your favorites!” Twenty minutes later I received that awful phone call. As we raced first to my parent’s home and then to the hospital chasing the ambulance, I replayed that conversation a million times over! A few moments later I would go in after he was gone to comb his hair and kiss him goodbye.

But somewhere in this great universe, God still watches over us and knows when we are hurting and He always gives us beauty from ashes. Our tears of sorrow are exchanged for tears of joy. For me that joy came as my beautiful granddaughter Juliana. She was born on her great grandpa’s birthday! Today was her fifth birthday. All five of my granddaughters are beautiful individuals and each gives us immense pleasure. But it is Juliana who helps me see joy and love when my mind courses over sad memories. On a day when I could easily revert to sadness, she is hope for the future! So this Thursday my treasure chest is overflowing with love, memories, and tears!

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