Grandma Peg

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of my Grandma Peg’s death. She is the only grandparent with whom I had a real relationship, since my other living grandparent and step-grandparent both died when I was 13.

I only saw my grandparents a few times per year, since they lived five hours away. But when I was young, I started exchanging letters with Grandma Peg and continued up until she became very sick.

Grandma and I never talked about the past; we talked about the present day. She would talk about her crafts and baking; I would talk about school or work. She had never been on an airplane, so I delighted in sending her postcards whenever I traveled.

She never spoke of the tragedies that befell her. Her father was a miner and was involved in an accident (a rock fell on his back and crushed his spine). He died two year later, at the age of 37. Her husband would die from a tractor accident in their yard at the age of 38.

I only know about the poverty of her childhood (and adulthood) because she wrote a short book of life stories for her five grandchildren. But, as she wrote in her book, she often felt blessed by simple kindnesses from friends and strangers. Throughout her life, she had strong faith and trusted in God: “God had His own plans. It is not for us to question that,” she explained in her book.

She first learned to drive at 39; she was given her first doll (a preemie Cabbage Patch Kid) at 70.

I have many things to remember her by, which make me smile: ceramics she painted, holiday magnets she made, copper pans that hung on her kitchen wall, and some handwritten recipes. God/Universe willing, my niece will grow up to know her four grandparents. If you have living grandparents, send them a note or give them a call. Ask them to write down some stories. You’ll be glad you did.

At the end of the book are poems, songs, and quotes she liked. I leave you with this thought:

Always remember to forget
The troubles that pass your way,
But never forget to remember
The blessings that come each day.

Me and Grandma
Me and Grandma

You Have Too Many Mag Subscriptions…

…when you go through your magazine pile and find one that is almost a year old:


Benedict has been waiting…









And I’ve already received a new magazine subscription for Christmas! New Year’s resolution: Make more time to read…

Well, I have one day left of work and then it’s holiday break time. Hope you are all having a lovely holiday season. I was going through some old photos the other day and came across these pics of my childhood cats.

Kitty and Kiwi were the best cats ever (don’t tell Olive). They were very chill and great sports.

Happy Holidays!




Lil Bro with Kiwi
Lil Bro with Kiwi

Tempus Fugit

The past few weeks have been a blur of work, volunteering, holiday shopping, holiday card sending, holiday lunches and parties, post office trips. And now it’s almost a week till Christmas.

Without fail, at least once during the holiday season, I buy someone a gift and buy myself the same thing. This year, the “one for you, one for me” is:








I found two of these signs sitting on the shelf at TJ Maxx the other day. I immediately picked one up and thought, “Mom needs this.”

“Oh, and I need it, too.”

My first reaction to the sign was laughter. Yes, we both over-schedule ourselves so much that it’s laughable (not to mention stressful at times).

But then I had a more mindful thought: This sign should serve as a reminder for us. We really don’t have the time to waste on busy-ness; our time should be spent more wisely. We need to make the time for relaxing, meditating, just being.

First (and maybe only) resolution for 2015.

Broke Through My First Brick Wall

I broke through my first brick wall recently!

A metaphorical, genealogical brick wall, that is.

I can’t even describe the surprise, relief, and elation I felt ALL AT ONCE. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.

My family tree has pretty long branches—some going back to the 1600s even. Except for one lonely, stubby branch. This branch has been lonely and stubby ever since I started researching the family tree a couple of years ago.

It’s my mom’s maternal branch. Everyone in this branch is long gone, and my mom only knows a few oral stories. So for the past couple of years, all I’ve found on her Italian grandparents are a few Pennsylvania census records and a couple of ship manifests (passenger lists).

Anyway. So I had a rough idea of their towns of birth, but I wanted confirmation. I sent away for their death certificates, hoping that they would have their towns of birth listed. Nope. I sent away for their naturalization records, which were not found. I spent hours looking at 20 years’ worth of Gioia Tauro birth records on microfilm, hoping to find my great-grandmother’s birth record, to no avail.

And then.

I decided to look on again, where I had found the Gioia Tauro microfilm. I had checked the available records for Grizzana Morandi, my great-grandfather’s alleged birthplace, before. There wasn’t any microfilm available. But when I checked this time, there was a link. Had I missed that link before?? The link took me to a list of online records! The available birth records started the year after he was born so no go there. I noticed that there were some marriage and death records listed as well. I didn’t think that they would get married in HIS hometown. But might as well check…

I hastily figured out their approximate year of marriage and started looking through the 100-page online document. There was no index; I just had to page through. Now mind you, these documents are all in handwritten Italian. I skimmed name after name until page 24. I read their names incredulously: Francesco Grandi and Francesca Repaci. I let out a gasp. But they were common names, after all. I kept skimming, looking for any other clues. And lo and behold, there were their parents’ names!!!

I yelled; I cried. I have no idea what this record says, but I could make out that they were both living in Gioia Tauro at the time and that civil officers from both towns had stamped the record.

So now I know where they were born: She was born in Palmi, south of Gioia Tauro, and he was born in Vimignano, outside of Grizzana Morandi. This record makes my quest to piece together their lives before their arrival in the United States that much more possible. I’m on the other side of the brick wall…


A page of my great-grandparents' marriage record
A page of my great-grandparents’ marriage record

A New Acronym


I am now an ABR, thanks to this little peanut:

Little Peanut aka Niyah










ABR stands for “Auntie by Relation,” according to the author of this book:











Time to crack open this book and work on my savviness. Do any of you ABRs or ABCs (Aunties By Choice) have any tips to share?

I am already thinking about Niyah’s betrothal to Prince George. No need to inform my brother just yet that his daughter will be attending the same college as Prince George. St. Andrews perhaps?

Courtesy of
Courtesy of