Monday, December 12, 2011

See You Next Year

I have been terribly remiss in keeping This Gioia's Chronicles updated.  Three grandchildren living in southern California and monthly trips to visit, 30 college students, five chickens, a pig, 4 dogs, 8 cats, and a garden, not to mention a house and a husband are keeping me pretty busy. 

So, dear Readers - I am taking a break until after the New Year.  Not only will I be organizing and deep cleaning the house and celebrating the holidays, I will be working on some projects that will, hopefully, generate some much-needed financial support.

Thank you to all of you for visiting my little blog.  I hope your holidays are filled with love and warmth, and I hope you know how much your support means to me. 

Take care and see you in 2012!  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Regrets? I Have Not One.

One of the philosophies I’ve carried is that I have no regrets in life.  Yes, there are some decisions and choices I’ve made that, if I had the chance (and the knowledge of the outcome),  I wonder if I’d repeat, but I have always accepted the path I’ve chosen and refuse to feel any regret.  It’s been my good fortune to have had wondrous experiences and discovered silver linings in each and every moment of my life – even if some of them challenged my sanity and happiness. 

I remember my best friend telling me that just because I was pregnant with my first child, I didn’t have to marry the father.  I didn’t heed that advice and married anyhow.  The marriage was not a good one and lasted only six years.  However, out of it I got my second daughter and eventually two grandsons.  No regrets there whatsoever. 

I turned down many opportunities that might have taken me to great heights in both career and life experience.  Instead, I’m a minimalist in life and work, but am exceedingly rich in how much time I can devote to my family, something my own mother was robbed of.

As I look back on my life, fifty-four years of it, and the opportunities I have been presented with and the choices I’ve made, I’m pretty satisfied.  

Do I wish there were things I could say I’ve done so far?  Sure.  I have only traveled overseas twice, not nearly enough for the places I have yet to see.  Do I wish I had started my writing career twenty or thirty years earlier?  Most definitely.  Would I be prouder if I’d stood up for myself in the countless situations where someone had hurt me?  You bet. 

But I am happy with the risks I have taken, the time I did speak out, the decisions I’ve made to bring me to this juncture in my life.  I have always said that I wish reincarnation were a true thing – then I could look forward to living all those lives I simply cannot be fit into just one lifetime.  I would be a geologist, actress, world traveler; I would be rich beyond imagination.  I would be a most humble being devoting my life to the betterment of others.  I would be a wanderer, with no fixed home, but making the world and those I encounter my family life and experience.  Yes, I would love to have five or more lifetimes to live. 

But, since I have only this one I will accept it for what it is, allow myself to cherish each and every moment from the choices I’ve made, the people I’ve happened to meet, the places I have found myself living. 

There are no regrets, just reflections, on a life well lived and of a future yet to unfold.  I hope that you, too, can say the same. 

If you had more than one lifetime, what would YOU do, be, become?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Rock and a Walk

I love taking walks.  Walks are not only good for exercise of the body; for me they are a way to work out things that are causing me distress.  When I am in need of such therapy, I take something along with me that helps focus my thoughts on positive outcomes to my worry. 

Worry stones have been around for a long time, but I have taken the concept a step further. 

As a rock collector I have an assortment of rocks of different shapes, sizes, colors, and origins. 

In many of the places I’ve visited I will look to the ground in search of a rock that “speaks” to me, one or more that really catches my eye and pocket it.  I’ve brought home rocks from my paternal grandfather’s village in Sicily, rocks from Native America Indian lands I’ve traveled through, rocks from my hometown in New York.  When people I know are going someplace I’ve never been, I ask them to please remember to bring back a rock for me; I may never get there myself.  I collect rocks that will remind me of a moment with someone I’ve shared a place with; in my collection is a rock that reads: Aiden Red Rock, March 2005,” gathered during a hike I took with Aiden when he was just 3-years-old. 

I feel an odd connection to things of the earth and you can’t get more “earthy” than a rock.  When I’m walking, I hold a rock that represents to me the person I am worried about or the thing I’m trying to work out. 

After my walk if I feel I need to concentrate even more, I will slip the rock in my bra, close to my heart and walk my day and sleep my nights with it there.  It helps me to focus my positive thoughts and energies to the thing I wish to change.

The pink rock was with me when I was praying Adrian would get away from the situation that was putting her and my grandchildren in danger (A Woman's Fight, A Woman's Grace); the rock with holes is a touchstone for anything I am concerned with; the striated one is helping me send grandson Aiden encouragement to make better choices.  The heart-shaped rock is just cool so I thought I'd share it. 

As I walk I rub the stone and I send a mantra of positive thoughts into the wind, hoping that my words and my intentions reach the ears and the hearts of those I am worried about.  I don’t know if my “magical thinking” works, but I have to say, it helps me cope.  And, I have seen my daughter come home safely; many of the worries I’ve had about work, money, life in general have worked themselves out (honestly, I didn’t put those holes in the rock with my rubbing!); and after a brisk rock and a walk I sleep better at night.  So, for me this method works.

More of my collection of rocks – these are just a few of them.

Anyone want to send me rocks from their location?  I’d love to receive them.

Anyone have a similar coping method?  I’d love to hear what you do. 

And, let me know if you try my “rock and a walk” idea and if it worked for you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Things We Leave Behind

When was the last time you peeked into your past?

Where are all your treasured mementos:
  • photographs of ancestors, your childhood, your children growing up
  • the scrapbook you created as a high school student filled with movie ticket stubs, a clipping of your best friend’s hair, a love note from your boyfriend
  • the cross-stitch or quilt you started but never found the time to finish
  • the antique dresser or bed handed down to you from great-grandparents that just never fit into your home d├ęcor
My friend shared with me a story about a woman she knows that is overwhelmed by the things that her parents and grandparents left behind when they died. As executor of the estate she is undertaking the task of removing generations of collectibles that fill, from floor to ceiling, the house and several outbuildings on two acres.

For two years I have been begging one of my cousins to “get up in the attic” of her parent’s home because I am told there are movies and photographs that were made during the time my own parents were alive and of all us kids growing up. Her mom and dad refuse to allow it because there’s no way to sift through the mountain of stuff, saying it can be dealt with when they are gone.

My own mother-in-law has filled every one of the bedrooms left behind by her five grown children with a doll collection that spills out into every other room in the house.

Spot the "real" doll
That, too, will have to be dealt with when she passes on; unless of course we want to pay the mortgage to keep them where they are.

I am left with some interesting thoughts about this practice of collecting: One, I completely understand the need to hang on to treasured mementos. I have written about it in Treasures Lost and Found and Touching the Past.

I love revisiting my past by opening a box full of them and reliving the moment in time. On the other hand, I think it is asking a lot of your children or other relatives to have to take on the chore of organizing, storing, or selling the things collected over the course of years and years. I also think it’s sad that a third party, an auctioneer or estate buyer will end up making a profit from the service they provide. Lastly, I think that people like my aunt and uncle are missing an amazing opportunity by ignoring the chance to go through their collectibles; think of the joy it would bring to remember long-ago moments, as well as (and perhaps the most important of all) to share the memories and stories with their kin – lest they be lost forever.

Can clinging to tangible links to our history be a burden or a gift? How are you dealing with the items left behind by your family? How are you preparing for your own passing of treasures?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Got Nothing............ to say, that is

Can it be that I’ve run out of things to say?  For two days now I’ve sat with an open screen staring at a blank white page just waiting for an inspiration to write about.  The few times this has happened I have felt an obligation to write a post long overdue and checked out previously written posts in order to recycle one, figuring no one would notice.  But every time I’ve tried I just couldn’t bring myself to cheat like that and I’ve always come up with something to write about.  Seems I’m stuck right now with a post to write and nothing to say!
I’ve always been that kind of writer; when something strikes me I am inspired to write about it.  My past posts have often been written on the spur of the moment or when an idea yearns to get out of my head.  I’ve written about my childhood, parents, children, husband, getting older, garden, and the many idiosyncrasies that make up “Me.”  I almost feel as though I’ve said it all.  I even, for a brief moment, considered closing my blog up and putting my efforts into other formats of writing – maybe even ones that would actually make me some money, but I’m not ready for that step just yet.
So, dear readers, bear with me as I post this boring message as I await the inspiration that will prompt another delightful installment of This Gioia’s Chronicles.  In the meantime, allow me to share a photo or two to make your stopping by a little worth it. 

Sometimes this is just how I feel!

Until I think of something really funnny!

And remember that I have so much, and so many to be grateful for

That it's okay to have an off-day once in a while!

Because seriously, Life is Good.

Until next time…… Peace and Happiness to All.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Just Say "No!" It's Not As Easy As It Should Be. Why I Need To Learn To Be Assertive.

My husband doesn’t think I’m assertive enough.

I shared with him an incident that took place just a few days ago that really set him off.  A colleague of mine became enthralled with my exposed, toenail painted feet.  I was so taken aback by his interest and his gall in touching them when I had my feet propped up on a chair that I assumed it was an impulsive act so I said nothing.  Nor did I say anything when the action was repeated; I just moved my feet to the floor, stood up and said it was time for me to go.  He did another out-of-character act that I allowed - he hugged me.  Again I did not protest the encroachment into my personal space. 

My husband says I should have spoken up immediately and let this man know his actions were most inappropriate, but I did not.  I said it was because I didn’t want to be rude nor did I want to make him feel bad. 

This, I know and my husband has made loud and clear, is a problem of mine.

You’d think at my age I would have developed the skill to assert myself by now.  I am assertive in many other aspects of my life; just try and mess with my family and see what happens,
but to stand up for myself has always been a challenge.   The above-mentioned scenario has happened over and over in my life and I can say that I can recall perhaps only a couple of times where I have stopped a man from going too far, but never have I vocally (or better yet physically) expressed the outrage I should have. 

Is my reaction common in women?  Is it a result of childhood abuse or conditioning?  Whatever the reason, one time I set out to try and develop an appropriate reaction to such inappropriate advances. 

When I was a university student I experienced an incident that caused me to question my ability to be a good role model for my daughters.  I allowed myself to be in a situation that while it was happening I knew should be stopped, yet I didn’t want to make a scene so I instead removed myself from the situation as soon as possible.  Once on my own I scolded myself for being so gullible and not wanting to confront the man who made me so uncomfortable. 

I went to classes later that day and headed to the Women’s Center on campus.   I asked if there were programs available to help women become more assertive and when they said there was not, I asked if I could start one. 

For that entire semester I facilitated group meetings with women who felt as I did, that they needed to be more assertive in their lives.  It was a wonderful program and one that I am proud of. 

However, the lessons learned have been all but forgotten, as is evidenced by my most recent encounter.  It’s hard to admit these failing in myself, especially as my husband said, I present myself as being so empowered and strong.  Why do I allow my feelings to be placed aside in order not to hurt the feelings of a man I have no obligation to protect? 

My good friend Celeste is someone whom I have admired for her ability to be outraged. She told me a story once about being in a drive through and the person in the car behind her began to honk their horn in impatience. As they became increasingly rude, she reached down below her seat and pulled out a crowbar. She got out of the car and headed to the one behind her. Apologies came fast and furious from the occupant and without a word Celeste had stood up for herself. I often think about that and wish I could think in the moment on how to act.

Maybe I need to start holstering a crowbar....


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fifty-Four and Counting



And in between a whole lot of:
Dances danced
Babies born
Friendships nurtured
Foods enjoyed
Gardens planted
Journeys made
Heart singing
Heart conditioning
Heart breaking
Stories watched
Stories written
Stories yet to be made
My past
My present
My future
My life
It has been, is, and will continue to be…

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fall Colors and My Autumn Blues

It’s September and right from the very first day of the month, the air feels different with  a change in temperature.  While this is my most favorite time of year, I find the coming season brings with it something unwanted. 

Every fall for the last several years I have experienced a depression that I now anticipate in the hopes I can ward it off.  For a while I didn’t associate the blue/black feelings with the coming of autumn, but then I began to pay attention to their impact on me and made the connection.  I have been successful in turning my mood around, but I can feel, right in the back of my mind, the looming possibility of a full-blown depression, expressed often in curse words spewing from my mouth over the littlest thing, the nit-picking of character flaws of everyone around me (my poor husband generally receives the brunt of this), and beating myself up over perceived inadequacies.  While I am much better now that I am aware of the problem, there were times when I would drive my car someplace secluded where I could have a good, hard cry; the ugly kind where you lose your breath and feel that your world is coming apart at the very seams. 

I self-analyzed these episodes and concluded that my depression is most likely a compilation of several factors. 

The summers are always hard on me in the desert.  I struggle to keep the flowers, trees and vegetables I’ve planted from succumbing to the intense heat. 

Our property just after we moved in, 2005

I rarely get any produce during those hot months, whereas in the other areas I’ve lived, New York and California, produce is in abundance from a backyard garden, roadside stands and hiking ventures. 

I also had trouble dealing with the heat as I went through the “hot” phases of menopause.  Thankfully, I’m on the other side of that change of life so my skin doesn’t feel like it’s on fire anymore.

When I was young, growing up in New York, I was always outside.  I witnessed the trees changing colors, felt the cold temperature on my face while I inhaled the smells of autumn and heard the crunching of leaves under my feet.  I miss that more than anything because it doesn’t happen in Las Vegas.  There are no pumpkin patches or harvest festivals, no place to go and buy a basket of apples or get some fresh-pressed cider.  This longing plays a big role in my autumn blues. 

Another reason might be more deeply rooted in what the month of October signifies for me; that’s the month my parents died (October - In Memoriam).  Ever since I was little my grandmother acknowledged my mother’s birthday (October 2) and her death day (October 17).  We went to her grave and lay flowers for her. 

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I recognized my father’s death date of October 26; his name and an acknowledgement of his death did not occur in our house during my childhood. 

Since October is now Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is impossible for me to ignore the connections.    

Since I have become self-aware of my propensity for depression in the fall, I have taken steps to prevent it overcoming me.  I have educated myself on how to create and maintain fruitful gardens even in this desert environment. 

One section of my garden today

I try and visit places that expose me to the autumn experience: two years ago it was Oregon,

last year my hometown in New York;

although this is tricky as I return to my Las Vegas home heavy-hearted leaving it all behind me.  But, I focus on the positives, which works to balance it all out for me.  And when I find myself spinning negative thoughts in my head or swearing at something silly, I reprimand myself and focus on the blessings I am so fortunate to have in my life.   

I feel it is important to allow yourself to go through the many phases and feelings that this journey in life has to offer.  I also feel it is very important to look closely at yourself to discover what makes you tick, and that includes looking deep within to find out how you can be the best that you can be.  I may not be exactly where I want to be at times, but I know that the power is within me to create my own happiness, no matter where I am or what time of year it is. 

I seems to be working for me. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Celebrities Might Be Selling It, But I'm Not Buying

Have your shopping habits changed much since the economy took a nose dive?  Do you still drive as often and as far as you used to, or is gas usage been reserved for work and no play?  While my household is well aware of the money crunch, we haven’t suffered too much as we have pretty much lived a frugal lifestyle, a habit instilled in me from my upbringing and out of necessity, but most of all because I don’t like, excuse the pun, buying into commercialism; which is why I wish I could institute a boycott of celebrity-driven marketing tactics. 

When I see mega-millionaires on commercials or in print ads urging consumers to buy everything from hair product to diet aids, I get really pissed.  Like Eva Longoria buys mascara or hair color off the shelf at WalMart.  Especially in this economy when people are struggling to feed their families and keep creditors at bay, celebrities are raking in even more money reaching out to those gullible enough to believe that if works for Kim Kardashian, it will work for them. 

I applaud those in London that pulled advertising with airbrushed images of actress Julia Roberts and model Christy Turlington (see L'Oreal rapped for airbrushed...) and praise Dove for placing women with curves in their marketing campaigns. 

Am I just a disgruntled middle-age woman or does anyone agree with me?  Do you, on principle, avoid buying products hawked by celebrities?  If so, where are you finding them because everything it seems has a name and a face to it.  Maybe it’s time to find and buy our products from independent companies and send the message to corporations that we just aren’t “buying” their propaganda anymore. 

Anyone with me?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Woman's Fight, A Woman's Grace

I once was lost, but now I’m found.”  Those are the words from one of my very favorite songs, Amazing Grace.  I don’t identify so much with the song on a personal level; rather I just love the words and the music of it.  However, the song, worded somewhat differently, holds a greater meaning for me as it applies to one of my children. 

My youngest daughter, Adrian, came out of the womb stubborn and with a mind of her own. 

Adrian knows what she wants, goes for it, and if mistakes happen, she chalks it up to life experience and learns from it.  She’s a lot like her mom in that way.  In my case, I really had no mother to turn to in times of indecision and crisis; I turned to my friends who were the greatest support system and saw me through. 

For Adrian, for better or for worse, she has had a mom in her life that paid very close attention to the path she walked and made a lot of noise when it was clear she was headed in the wrong direction.  That has caused some strife in our relationship from time to time, but in the long run it has made her and I extremely close.  The reason is because no matter what decisions she made, and some have cost her great heartache and radically changed the life she might have led, she knew I was there for her.  That’s what a mom does and Adrian knows that better than ever now because she, too, is a mom. 

Adrian is in the fight of her life.  She made some choices that have resulted in a battle over the custody of her youngest son, 15 month old Noble.  What was one of the choice she made?  To leave a relationship that was toxic, abusive, frightening, and unhealthy. 

When Adrian was in this relationship I feared for her and for my beloved Aiden.  I feared with all of my heart that she was lost to me; she was confused about what the definition of “love” is – love is not painful, nor scary, nor hurtful.  She accepted this for a while until something inside of her demanded she survive, and she did.  That’s why I am so drawn to the song, “…once was lost but now am found.”  When she was pregnant she found the courage to leave and for that I have never been prouder of her. 

Her life is far from easy right now, but she is going to see this through and come out the winner.  No matter the cost financially, no matter the years it may take, Adrian, along with the help of a wide-reaching support of family and friends, will survive.  After all she did it once, and she has the most important reason to do so – her sons. 

I have hesitated about sharing this story up to now for several reasons.  One, it’s not my story to tell.  However, I have my daughter’s blessing to do so.  Second, I know that the man who is out to destroy her life because she dared to leave him reads this blog looking for anything he might use against her.  But now I feel it appropriate, and necessary, to get some of this stress off of my chest and I have always found relief in writing. 

I have also, like before, found an amazing support system; this time among my blog friends and followers and frankly, right now, I can use all they can spare. 

If my story and that of my brave, hard-working daughter can help anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, then my sharing will be repaid tenfold.  If anyone in the blog-reading world has advice or resources they feel can help Adrian, I welcome their suggestions and thank them with all of my heart. 

Here is to the fierceness and tenderness of women everywhere.

For more information on domestic abuse and the help that is there for women in an abusive relationship, please go to Domestic Violence.Org

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Who's Lucky?

I have been fortunate to have had many loves in my life, of the four-legged kind.  Dogs have played a central role in every year I’ve lived, from small to large, I can’t recall a time when I haven’t been in the company of a dog.

My father owned dogs, German Shepards, and my aunt, his sister, claims he owned the first white German Shepard in the area where we lived.  The first dog I can recall from childhood was Princess, a Border Collie, and since her I’ve owned that breed time and again.  I can recall every single dog I’ve had the privilege of knowing. 

"Peanut," my first all-mine dog. We played hide 'n seek with the mailbox.

I got "Babe" right after arriving in California.
He was lost on the wedding night to my first husband - an omen, maybe?

"Bo" was the first dog John (my second husband) and I loved and lost together.

"Tiffany" and "Dusty"

"Cochise" the dog that broke our hearts when it was his time


To date, there are four that make their home with me and my husband:

Maya, a Mini-Pincher/Shitzu mix at 6 weeks

Grubb, a funny-looking Jack Russell

Candy, Pit Bull
Lucky, breed unknown. 

It’s Lucky that I’m going to write about as today is our Lucky Anniversary. 

One year ago today he came into my life.  I wrote about his rescue in a two-part blog: Animal Heaven I & II.  I wanted to provide an update on the year of Lucky.

Generally, young dogs are hyper and destructive, requiring a great deal of training and vigilance to keep them out of trouble.  While Lucky is a healthy and active dog, there is a calmness to him that is usually found in older dogs.  As I write this he sits to the side of my chair, his preferred spot whenever I’m working at the computer.  Once he figured out that he was indeed big enough to jump, he found his way onto our bed and enjoys snoozing curled up by my side. 

I have enjoyed watching his growth and development (within three months he went from 7 lbs. to 35 lbs!) and marveled at his unique personality.  I love this dog. 

When we first got him I had every intention of placing him in a new home. At the time we already had four dogs (Zeke has since been put down)

and another was just not in my plans.  I tried to find a home for him: friends, Facebook appeals, the local animal societies, but in the end I knew he was destined to be with us.  I could still hear my grandson, Aiden, saying, “Nana, we should name him Lucky because he was lucky we found him,” so how could I let him go? 

Aiden and his pal, Lucky, September, 2010
The thing is, every time I look at him, my heart breaks just a little more.  Why?  Because I worry about all the dogs, especially his litter mates, that I can’t save.  When I look into Lucky’s eyes I see that desperate plea that was there when I plucked him, all flea, tick and worm infested, starving and dehydrated, and know there are so many more out there just like him. 

I know I can't save them all, but it's a hard reality to accept. 

His name is Lucky, but the truth is, I'm the Lucky One. 

Bedtime (yep, there are two humans under those covers!)
(Borrowed from the website)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Journey's End - for this summer, at least

Well, this year’s journey with Aiden has come to an end, or nearly so, as tomorrow we will be back in Las Vegas.  I sit in a hotel room in Fallon, Nevada, several hours from our final destination; Aiden is fast asleep with two dogs (secreted into the room) curled up around him.  Why is it that a week can pass by in the blink of an eye?  It’s true -  time flies when fun is happening.

Visiting with friends in Atascadero and Berkeley, California was mainly for my benefit, but I know Aiden had a wonderful time, as well.  My friends were impressed by him – “He’s so handsome,” they gushed.  John enjoyed having a little boy around and Joe and Sue loved showing him the “Bay Trail.”  But for Aiden, the true adventure and place to be was with Uncle Nigel in Oregon. 

Together they joked, squirted one another with water guns, fished from a boat (Aiden caught six and put two in the family pond), had coffee and hot chocolate together at Coffee Heaven, dug dirt with a backhoe, and built a fort.  Everything a little (and big) boy should do in the summer and crammed into four days!  It was magic to watch and I love the memories he made.

Back to reality and soon both Aiden and I are back in school.  I am grateful for the safe journey we had and for the friends whose hospitality was so generously given.  I am looking forward to taking Rain and Noble on their own road trips someday soon.    

Enjoy the photos from our road trip: