Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Final Exit: You Mean it Can Happen to Me?

“Why are you taking this course?” is the standard question asked the first day of most classes and my college extension class was no different. What was different was the class itself; I had no idea what I was getting in to. The title of the class, Talking About Death As If It Might Happen To Us was one I signed up for because it fell on a day I was free and I’ve always been interested in the topic of death. 

           I answered that introductory question by saying that my life’s journey had included death from an early age: my parents died when I was young and going to the cemetery to visit my mother’s grave and hearing stories about her post-mortem made me very aware that death was a part of life. I became fascinated with cemeteries and memorials and the way that people expressed their grief over the loss of loved ones. But, I discovered that this 8-week course was so far removed, yet so applicable, to my own experience with death, and the entire experience scared the hell out of me.

It was a practical course on preparing for our own death experience, bringing the topic of our mortality into the light, making us, and hopefully our loved ones, prepare emotionally, intellectually, and legally. Yes, legally. Our aging process, if we are so fortunate to age, comes with all sorts of complications and we might just find ourselves in a position where we can’t take care of ourselves or tell those in charge of our care what our wishes are. My past experience with death was in the abstract; it didn’t apply to me personally. This class was a reality check and I found myself running as fast as I could in the opposite direction rather than face the fact that preparing for my own demise was an urgent necessity.

We read books: Death, Dying and Dessert by Susan Abel Lieberman, Being Mortal, the bestseller by Atul Gawande, several pertinent articles and had access to videos and handouts. As a former college professor I expected my students to do their homework. When I was a college student I was exceptional in ensuring my homework was done on time. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to do all the assignments, especially the ones requiring me to have the “other talk;” conversations with another (I chose my lifelong best friend) about my wishes, or the one where I filled out my Advance Directive. 

Of course I told myself it was because I was too busy, but the underlying truth is that I consider myself too busy to die.

I shared these feelings on our last day of class and thankfully the teacher acknowledged me by saying she appreciated my candor. I just loved being in that class, in spite of the topic; I felt embraced by my classmates, some members who are at that precipice looking at their 9th decade. I admire their courage, but most importantly their generosity as they give themselves and their loved ones the gift, yes the gift, of being wholly prepared for the inevitable. I only hope that I can access the same courageous spirit and do likewise.

I am still in possession of my class notes, books, handouts, and links. I have my Advanced Directive worksheet and document to fill out. Thankfully I have my husband, best friend, and children at close hand to share my long-term care and final days wishes with. I am committed to completing all class assignments after the fact, and make a promise to myself that sooner rather than later, to visit this topic often so I can become comfortable with it. My life, and my death, depends upon it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy Anniversary to Me

One year ago today I took a leap of faith and changed my life.

I can hardly believe just how amazing things have turned out and I will never, ever again doubt myself. I know what I want and I know that it takes faith, courage, and sacrifice to attain one's purpose and goal in life. Granted, such a move does not come without cost, and not everyone in my life was happy about the choices that I made, but the MOST IMPORTANT lesson I've learned from all of this is - it is MY choice.

My motto has been that I only have one life to live and I, alone, must get the most out of it.

On August 20, 2013 I crossed the Oregon border to reside in my new home.

I left behind many things I pine for: my husband, animals that I could not bring, trees, plants, and other things I'd managed to get growing in the arid, Las Vegas desert. I left behind some wonderful, loyal friends. What I also left behind was a life I was not suited for and one I had longed to leave. When asked why I moved away from home and husband, I say that I needed to be in place that was green, with water in abundance (however, the drought has impacted us greatly here, too), and be surrounded by nature. Southern Oregon fit that bill more than I could ever have predicted.

I found all of that and so, so much more:

a group of neighbors that embraced me from the moment I arrived

a life among wild turkeys, deer,and surrounded by nature

and a raging river

a job that I could only dream of ever having (Siskiyou County Museum); and peace in my soul.

All of this took place in the span of one year and I could never have imagined any of it.

For those of you that are wondering:

My husband of 26 years and I are still as strong and in love as ever. When the time is right he will join me.

My animals will follow, but for the time being, Lucky the dog, Boy, Dosier, Little Girl, Cry Baby and Pretty Boy Floyd, and Pig are in good hands (John has become the main caretaker).

My plants: trees, flowers, and vegetables will have to survive without me.

The Las Vegas Media Group is one of my greatest regrets - I hate leaving them in the lurch.

I am happy. I have leaped into the unknown and have landed on my feet.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Long Siesta

I linked to my Blog Dashboard to shut down my site just now. 

I am once again feeling overwhelmed by obligations of my own doing: taking on too much work and not enjoying moments of nothingness. To that end I have (nervously) extracted myself from some paying jobs, taking a leap of faith that I can make my living just fine on one, not three jobs that are pulling me in all directions - or to an early grave.  

In the process of this "house cleaning" I figured that I would stop feeling like I should be writing my blog posts on a more regular basis, just another obligation I felt I was failing. Then, I saw a comment that was awaiting moderation.

Someone had taken the time to write to me regarding a post I wrote all the way back in 2009. This unknown individual shared her own birth story after reading Childbirth My Way .  I realize that I love this venue for writing my story, I love most of all that I touch others in doing so. I may not have a huge following, however, nearly 30,000 people have stopped by to read my musings since I first started writing the blog. My dream has always been to write and inspire. It has never been about becoming rich or famous, but I would lie if I said I didn't wish I could be the next Frank McCourt or Linda Lou

So, instead of signing off for good, I am putting my blog, This Gioia's Chronicles, on hiatus. I hope readers, new and returning, will take the time to scroll through the last five years of writing while I'm taking a long siesta. There may just be one or more posts that you relate to, are inspired by, and you will take the time to tell me so. 

Adios for now.

Lisa Gioia-Acres

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Delayed Responses in an Instant Messaging World

I thought technology, you know: cell phones, emails, and the like was supposed to make our jobs and lives easier. Instead, I find that I am constantly waiting for a response to messages left on "instant transfer" messages. Do you feel the same?
I send an email to apply for a new position, to submit important documents, or just to say "Hello" to someone.


No, "Hey, I got your important information, thanks for sending. We'll be back with you as soon as possible."  

It's an email! It takes literally five-ten seconds to hit the Reply button, say "thanks" and hit Send. I have taken to writing in my emails, "Please reply to this message so I know you have received it."

Not long ago I delivered some delicious cookies to a neighbor. She wasn't home so I set the cookies on her table with a little "thank you for your help" note. I didn't hear a thing back from her. I sent a little nudging text message, "Hey, how are you? Did you get the cookies?"


I think our instantaneous world is overwhelming us. Most likely the culprit is that everyone's email
box is filled with so many emails it is hard to sift through the good ones from the spam.

Maybe it's time to go back to sending things the old-fashioned way: writing a note by hand or applying for a job through the

But, then again, no one will have time to read a letter in hand because they are too busy staring at and cursing their computer screen. 
Ah, the world we now live in.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Be the Master (or Mistress) of Your Own Destiny

Today I met up with a friend I haven't seen for a few months. We shopped at a few thrift stores and caught up with one another's life. At one point she said to me, "Have you been depressed? Are you taking anything?"  I thought she was asking me because perhaps she was asking advice for herself. I was partly right; seems she has trouble, being a southern California born-and-bred girl, with the rainy, sometimes snowy winters where we both now call home.

Why she'd asked, however, was because, to put it in her words, "You are so happy, I thought for sure you were taking medication."
I've thought about that exchange ever since we parted. I am happy and no pill is responsible. Rather, I am the master of my happiness because I took a leap of faith and followed my heart.

For years I've lived in a place that just wasn't suited to me. I am not going to bash the place I called home for twenty-five years. I've made some amazing friends, built a career, and have memories that make me smile. But, I didn't want to be there anymore. I had another place in mind to live, and for many reasons. But everyone around me, save for my closest friends and family, told me I was crazy to want to leave, especially where I hoped to go. They said that I was always doing impulsive acts. They said I should count the blessing I had and stay put! They told me that I'd never be happy (See Happiness is in the Heart of the Beholder).
I knew what was best for me and I finally dared to gift it to myself.
So, at the end of this past summer I settled somewhere else. I still keep tabs on my old stomping ground because I can't make a complete break as of yet, but this is where I plan on being for a long time. It does make me happy. We have four seasons here, and when it rains I don't feel gloomy – I know that Mother Earth is being nourished and I feel giddy. The people here are so friendly! I've made some fast friends in the short time I've been here. And that friend I mentioned in the beginning? We were best of friends a long time ago in another place and we just happened to end up here, in the same place. Serendipity!

We all live in the shadow of others' expectations, and sometimes the pressure of that keeps us from doing what we most desire. For so long I thought I was doomed to accept where I was and that indeed made me depressed.
But now I have a whole new lease on life. I am my own best medicine.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm Still Here!

Oh, yes. It has been far too long since my last blog post.
There are times I wonder if I will continue using this venue to express myself, since it is obvious with the length of time between postings that I may, heaven forbid, have run out of things to say. That really isn't true, not by a long shot, but the thrust and need for sharing from when I began my blog in 2009, to now, has diminished some. For one, I am working on that long-delayed memoir and want to save at least some for the published (and paid for) copy of my life story! And, the blog posts of the past have certainly served their purpose: I got a lot of that angst stored up inside of me off of my chest. Lastly, A LOT has changed in the last half of the year and truthfully, some of it is personal and I'm not too willing to share it with the anonymous audience. 

My dreams are coming true. They are. I have leaped with faith and have been rewarded ten-fold. It is a wonderful story that continues to unfold, and as much as I wish to tell every step of it, I feel a need to hold back. I am so proud of what I've accomplished in a short period of time. Everything I've ever believed in and followed through on – meaning all those years of impulsive actions, still serve me; even in this time of my life when I should, according to so many willingly giving me free advice, be conservative in my life choices. I say the heck with that. I have reinvigorated my life by taking chances.

As usual I am so busy that I often wish I could stop the world from spinning and get off. But, it is me that makes the choices to say, "yay" or "nay." My responsibility and I accept my role in it. Besides, as the old saying goes, "I'll get plenty of sleep when I'm dead."

I most certainly hope that event is a long, long way off. I have so much more to do yet!
Here's a hint about my new life: my view


Friday, November 8, 2013

Time Travel is Possible: In Your Dreams

Although I experienced loss (my parents) at a young age, I really didn't know anyone close to me that would die until much later.  My first experience was at age 17 when a high school friend died in a car accident.  Prior to that it was my pets that came and went that taught me about the fragility of life and the inevitability of death.  Now that I am older, however, deaths of both human and animals that I know (friends and colleagues) and love (close friends, family, and beloved pets) is happening more and more frequently.

When I have lost someone I realize that they are gone for good; they've left the planet and no longer exist in bodily form.  It really affects me as I know it does anyone who experiences loss.  Just like wishing I could go back in time to when my girls were babes in my arms, I often wish there was a time machine so I could go back and reconnect with lost loved ones.

When that show Quantum Leap was on, I so wanted it to be true that we had the ability to time travel.  But I realize that we all do have the ability, just not in the way that Hollywood or H.G. Wells have portrayed it.  My time machine (and yours) is in our head.  It's called dreaming.

I received a text this morning from a friend who said she had a dream about her long-lost beloved pet, a Pomeranian she adored that crushed her when she'd died.  It reminded me of the dreams I have with my grandmother, the woman who was my mother-substitute; yes – when I awake I realize it was just a dream, but for a time I was really with her.  We talked, did things together, and shared space together just like we did when she was alive. 

I have never had a dream about my mom and dad because I was so young when they died that I have no memories.  But I have vivid dreams of so many others that have come and gone in my life.  I am so grateful to have those stored memories so I can revisit Nancy, the friend who died at age 17; Maya, the terrier that gave me so much cuddling joy; and Elizabeth Montgomery, who I never met in person but who made an impact in my young life (I wanted her to be my mom!). 

Yes, time travel is possible, when we are asleep everyone we love is alive!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

History, big or small, matters to us all

Years ago when I was old enough to know that my family history was unique, I became a rebel.  

Those that I grew up around hoped that the story of my parents' life and death would fade into obscurity because it wasn't a "nice" story, in fact the very nature of it brought shame to the family name and brought up memories too sad to be recalled. 

First I asked questions out of pure curiosity: why was I raised by my grandmother?  Why were there no photographs of my parents?  Why, when I asked questions was I met with, "Never mind.  It's in the past.  Let it go." 

A persistent child and adult, I began to dig.  Those efforts, of finding out the truth from uncovered documents, as well as interviews with people who knew my mom and dad, has turned me into the historian I am today.

To me, facts, dates, and stories matter. 

Today is the anniversary of my father's death.  Nine days ago it was my mother's; both died in the same year, nine days apart. 

So many years have passed since that fated month.  That's what I tell myself when I notice the dates: October 17 and October 26.  I ask myself what does it matter?  It is just another day.  My life is full and happy, I have so much to be thankful for that I should not dwell on the past.  That is so much easier said then done.

I am a historian and dates matter. 

Teaching students about history on a global level is all about making sure they know when historic events happened, where they took place and who was involved.  It the story of human history.  The story of my family is a much more personal, intimate one that concerns very few.  But the impact of the events that took my parents from me, leaving my three brothers and I adrift in life with questions that can never be answered are as important to us as any major world history event.  It happened in our world and we have been forever changed.

History matters; whether it affects a few or an entire population, remembering it is a debt we owe to those who made it and left behind a legacy, no matter how big or small. 

No, that don't have to hold me back, but it is okay to remember.

Today, many years ago, my father died.  His story and that of my mother has not been forgotten.  That's my job as a daughter - and as a historian.

Joseph and Patricia Gioia with
sons Michael, infant Jimmy, and Joseph, Jr.

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's the Journey AND the Destination that Counts

It was 1979 and I'd returned from a cross-country trip with Mike, the man who would, over time become my husband and the father of my two children.  I'd recently graduated from the EATM program.  In an old car and an (adorable) teardrop trailer, Mike and I went to my home in New York, stayed a few weeks and headed west again.  Instead of going back to southern California, he took me to an out-of-the-way place called Happy Camp in northern California.  There we stayed the summer and it was the first time I'd laid eyes on the Pacific Northwest, an experience I was never able to shake. 

The teardrop trailer that had everything we needed
After returning to the Los Angeles area, I grew tired of the relationship and in typical Lisa fashion, I left the state in order to leave a boyfriend.  Where did I go?  I headed north again.  I had heard from one of my teachers in the EATM program, a hardened old former circus animal trainer, Wally Ross, that I might get a job in southern Oregon with an old friend of his.  Without first checking to see if I would find employment, another impulsive behavior typical of me, I purchased an old Willy's Jeep, a cabover camper to go with it, filled it with my few material possessions, as well as my most precious ones: my dog, cat and bird and headed on to a new adventure.

"Babe", my faithful companion

I got the job, working as an animal trainer for Dogs for the Deaf.  I also took on a job as a waitress.  I lived in the camper until someone offered to rent me, for $25.00 a month, a little travel trailer.  I also lucked out and found a place to park my mobile home, right along the Applegate River.  There I lived, for the first time in my life, all by myself.  It was a wonderful, albeit small existence, but one that changed me forever. 

The experience didn't last long; Mike was a persistent suitor and shortly after the new year I discovered a whole new life awaited me - that of a first time mom.  Once again, with Mike as the driver of both my Jeep and my life, I found myself on the road again. 

Throughout the subsequent years, through all the trials and tribulations of a life well lived, I have thought fondly of that little trailer by the river and the place that reminded me so much of the country life I lived as a child.  I wondered if I'd ever get the chance to live there, or someplace like it again.

It took a long, long time, but I did make it back to a place that is surrounded by old-growth trees, the four seasons, and water.  Oh, how I missed water: rain, rivers, creeks.  While I still have to call Las Vegas "home," I can finally say that I'm on my way to recapturing what I thought I might have lost forever.  The temporary home I live in is a bit bigger than that trailer, but not by much, yet it suits me because I am warm and safe and it's the outside world that interests me most.  Surrounded by nature that includes vegetation and wildlife, I am literally in my element. 

The view from my back porch
I have found much inspiration here in my little writer's retreat.  I can't wait to see what I produce.  I have to sign off now; it's dusk and the wild turkeys are getting ready to roost.  I just have to step onto my back porch to watch.

Time for bed

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Night to Remember: My Date with The Monkees

My rock concert experiences have been few and far between.  Although as a kid I was more into the Jackson Five (the animal lover in me listened to Michael Jackson’s Ben over and over) then the Osmonds, I saved up my allowance money to take my favorite aunt to see them in Buffalo for her birthday.  My next concert was another teeny-bopper affair: David Cassidy had me joining in with all the other screaming girls.  As I matured my music tastes didn’t get any more sophisticated than Elton John, whom I have seen a couple of times and have never tired of the way his music touches me.
I am a loyalist when it comes to musicians and bands that take me back to my childhood; my iPod is filled with the sounds of music that makes me feel good.  So when the opportunity came recently to see The Monkees in Las Vegas, I felt like a preteen again, hopping about in anticipation before, during and after the event.  The experience was everything and more for me and I wish, like every other fan there that I could express to the group how much they mean to me. 

I attended with my Las Vegas BFF Linda, whose enthusiasm nearly surpassed my own.  She and I are the same age and come from the same region in New York, so our childhood experiences with Monkee Love are the same.  I told my husband it was a good thing he wasn’t going with us because we were sure to make fools of ourselves.  Thank goodness we were in good company; the other concert-goers took no notice of us as they were screaming and dancing in their seats the same as us. 
Davy Jones was, of course, missed.  Mike, Peter, and Mickey (he and Davy were my crushes) did a beautiful tribute to their lost band mate when they said that “Daydream Believer” belonged to the fans so they brought a guy from the audience up to lead us all in singing we watched a montage of Davy scenes from the television show. 

During the entire concert I wondered how I would put into words the feelings I was having so I could write a blog post.  Although I have conveyed here a little bit of the experience, I really am at a loss for words to share everything I was feeling.  My emotions were mixed with nostalgia and joy, but there was so much more that I don’t know how to express.  To have been able, in my fifties, to see and hear live a group that I only dreamed of being in the presence of as a kid is, well – I have no words to express.  That is perhaps why music sometimes says it better and while I swayed, sang, jiggled, and screamed during the concert, I let me emotions do the talking for me. 
It was a magical night. 

Check out the video: