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.”

Sumptuous Sundays – En la Cucina

February 7, 2010 at 05:30 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Italian Cooking, memories | 2 Comments
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If you’re from an Italian family, you know at least 70 times 7 recipes for SAUCE – or as some refer to it, GRAVY! You probably know it by several names! For instance if there is meat or fish it is sugo. Succa and salsa were other names too.

Somewhere right now someone’s mama is making a huge pot of sauce, standing at the stove, gently stirring with a wooden spoon. If it’s Sunday, the famiglia is getting ready to gather together for their mama’s cooking! Someone else is probably trying to sneak around mama trying to dip a piece of bread in the pot already! Nothing says home and love like opening the door and smelling the wonderful aroma of that pot bubbling away on the stove. After all the sauce needs to simmer and bubble for hours to bring out all the robust flavor.

I had always been a great cook. From the time I was a child, I loved to cook. My own mother was a collector of great cookbooks and she was a gourmet chef who could whip up fantastic meals for two to two hundred on practically no money and certainly no effort! So I learned at her elbow and won awards in both high school and college for my skills as well as the accolades of friends! There was never a recipe that I was intimidated by. I enjoyed the challenges.

Then I met Valentino. Oh! How I wanted to impress him – and I was sure that a home cooked meal was the way to do so. After all we all learned the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. So I decided to plan a nice little dinner affair of spaghetti, Italian bread, salad, a little wine! Maybe even a homemade cake for desert. Or maybe homemade minestrone? Then somewhere around there I lost my mind and my nerve. I decided to ask a girlfriend for an “authentic” sauce recipe – after all, she was Italian American so I assumed she would have a wonderful recipe perfect for the occasion. What I didn’t assume was what I spiteful hateful jealous so and so she was and no part of a friend. I was cooking for the man she had a secret hankering for! According to her “Italian grandmother’s old family recipe”, one was supposed to make big round meatballs and drop them into the tomato sauce already simmering without cooking the meatballs first. I asked her if she was sure about that. I certainly had never heard of meatballs done that way. Let me admonish anyone who is questioning this method – it is NOT good! It produced the most horrible tasting concoction I have ever tried. Valentino spit his out and then just sat looking at me for a moment with his huge dark eyes. He finally quietly (amazing for an Italian, huh? Sure sign of SERIOUS) “What were you trying to do? Poison me?” Fighting tears of embarrassment I explained who gave me what recipe. His eyes grew wider and then he exploded in laughter. Seems I was the only person in Rhode Island who did not know how this gal had stalked him at one time! I was played the fool for sure.

He finally stopped laughing and decided to give me an impromptu cooking lesson. A can of black olives, lots of minced fresh garlic, some olive oil and a fry pan – we had Spaghetti Aglio e Olio! That following week he introduced me to his cousin Liz. This dear cugina has spent hours since then teaching me to make many family favorites and the tricks known only to Italian cooks to make sumptuous meals from next to nothing. Later it would be Mama Concetta who visit us for two or three months at a time and take over the kitchen. Then I was able to stand at the elbow of a master chef and learn! We would put up hundreds of jars of tomatoes, pickled eggplants, green beans, jams and more. She taught me to milk goats and how to make our own fresh and hard cheese. And bread! Her daily bread baking would fill the house with a wonderful aroma each morning! Of course I also learned the finer points of pizzas as she spoiled our sons with their favorites. But my lessons did not stop there. Soon my dear sisters in law would share more lessons with me. I learned to travel with a notebook to write down all the recipes and hints and tips. Stuffed breads with spinach or broccoli, leek soup, roasted herbed potatoes, pane di spagna, lasagna, granite, brandied fruits, fried squash blossoms. Even now there is nothing more special than being “en la cucina” with one or more of them as we all laugh, gossip, and cook. Famiglia! Mangia! Buon Appetito tutti!

Doors That Should Be Opened

May 28, 2009 at 03:12 | Posted in Bits and Pieces | Leave a comment
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There are doors that cry out to be thrown open wide. Doors that should never have been shut, windows to the world that should be thrown open along with those doors. Doors that hide ignorance and shame and lies should be opened wide. Let daylight in, expose those dark hiding places of the souls. School doors should never be closed to anyone for any reason (excluding the obvious criminal reasons). Church doors shouldn’t be closed. Pretty sad that in today’s wild world, there is a need to lock a church door. A politician’s door should always be open to all their constituents. Not just say they’re open but really be open to everyone. I guess it goes almost without saying that a hospital door should never shut to anyone whether or not they can pay. But that’s a tough one if the hospital is a for-profit organization. Someone has to pay somehow but it would be wrong to deny a sick person help.

Borders. Now there’s some doors we shouldn’t close. They should be wide open but that’s not gonna happen. That nice poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty doesn’t mention closed doors but how do we keep them open to everyone if everyone isn’t nice? Sigh… this open door thing is getting tough. And borders to “rogue nations” or “bad guys”… how do we deal with them. Those doors should be open to inspection to be sure human rights are protected. We want charities to be able to get aid to those in need. Doors to vital records offices and maybe adoption agencies should be open. We want everyone to find their roots and they have a right to know who gave them life, right? But what about the parent’s privacy rights? Seems like some of these are becoming revolving doors?

Let’s get back to some simpler doors. Remember when everyone lived in great little towns where no one had to lock their doors? Those kind of doors need to be reopened! Closet doors need to be opened so kids can see there are no monsters waiting until they go to sleep! Library doors need to be open all the time so kids can go curl up with a great book and have the doors of the world opened to them! Doors to the heart need to be opened so we find compassion and love for our fellow man! I want the doors to closed minds to be opened so that pain and fear and prejudice go away when exposed to the daylight!

Can you think of any other doors that need to be locked or opened?

I have one. I want the windows and doors of heaven opened wide that the blessings are so numerous as they shower out on you and yours that your own doors and windows burst open so you can share it with everyone else too!

Maria Has Gone Missing?

February 14, 2009 at 21:26 | Posted in family research | Leave a comment
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I have learned a valuable and painful lesson this week. Even though I have been a stickler about genealogy organization, I have messed up somewhere. One of my future posts will be about organizing and the beauty of proper sourcing from the beginning. Even saving scraps of notes  helps to recreate in order to prevent double tracing over territory already investigated. But that is for a future post. This is about why we all need to be organized and thorough. So do as I say and not as I foolishly did! One of my documents that would prove my research went missing. If I cannot not have that paper or source in hand, I can not definitively prove three generations are properly in place. Two years of work will be worthless and I will end up possibly chasing wrong family lines. Our family tree will take on the appearance of an over-pruned olive tree not yielding olives!

The woman in question has an unusual name unlike any of the more common and frequently used given names in the family… Maria Veneranda. I had her name and approximate dates. I even had her parent’s names! It seemed pretty likely that I did not therefore simply pick a name out of thin air but without proof, sources, I am at a loss. Why this woman took this particular time to go missing is beyond me – a bit of a curiosity. I “know” I had my hands on her paperwork just before Christmas while working on all the genealogy and history books for our sons.

What makes this all the more curious is that she went missing last weekend when I found evidence that her husband had remarried when their son was approximately four or five years old. Interesting because I had no prior information about her death but there was Raffaele living at the same address, correct age, same parents marrying another woman. What was Maria V. trying to say from all those years ago? Was this a painful hurtful episode for her – had she still not been able to let go of jealousy of another woman raising her son? When my youngest was still a baby, we were handed bad news about my medical condition at that time. Doctors warned me to prepare and to expect the worst – there was little hope given for recovery. The admonition to “put my affairs in order” infuriated me, and I burned with jealousy at the thought of another woman taking my place in my husband’s life and raising my children! Even now after 32 years next week I am still very much Valentino’s wife! Suddenly I felt a kinship to this woman; I could sense the agony of a woman over 100 years ago knowing someone else would replace her – had replaced her. If I find her again soon, I promise to be more careful, more respectful of Maria V. She is the direct familial link – it is her son who would be the great grandfather of my husband – it is her genes that pass down to our sons. I have learned once again to source and document and back-up all information! Maria V. is not forgotten – we will search for her to bring her back to her rightful place in the family tree!

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