What Do You Believe In?

My eleven year old son lost a tooth the other night in what has been a succession of lost teeth over the last few weeks. The only difference with this one is the tooth fairy forgot to  slip some money under his pillow in exchange for the tooth (damn short term memory).

This led to a discussion with Mom about, well, how Mom and Dad actually are the tooth fairy. Over the initial shock, he seemed to take it pretty well. Since his reaction was less than explosive, my wife took it a step further… to include Santa and the Easter Bunny.

At first, I couldn’t believe she was doing it. I think both my son and daughter are growing up too fast as it is, and I wasn’t sure if telling him that Santa and his reindeer are fiction was the greatest idea.

I thought, in the past,  maybe my writing partner Gabrielle would spill the beans to her brother about Santa and his holiday crew (she has an affinity for the Great Pumpkin). Impressively, she kept it tightly under wrap.

Turns out he suspected it, anyway. Although Suzie and I have always made a big fuss about leaving cookies and milk for Santa and seeing hoof prints from the reindeer in the snow, the little boy spied gifts from Santa he unwrapped on Christmas Day in the back of a mini van in a department store bag.

I know they’re growing up. I know the concept of “being realistic” is setting in.

I knew they weren’t going to believe forever.

Tooth fairy or not…there’s some things Dad thinks they have to believe:

I want them to believe in themselves. Without self confidence, the world can be a hard place. Even if they don’t feel confident, I’d like to see them fake it. Until they are. With a good dose of confidence, their opportunities will open right up.

I want them to believe that they will always have something to offer the world. Because they do. I’ve already posted of my daughter’s budding talents in art, writing, and photography. My son already has a martial arts black belt, and is honing his skill in baseball. They have the ability now to help and inspire others if they want to.

I want them to believe that no matter how many times they get knocked down, they can always get back up. Dad can tell them a little about rejection. I work with it every day. The sting of rejection goes away the more you deal with it.  If you’re not meeting some resistance, you’re not doing anything of consequence.

I want them to believe there are no shortcuts. The very best way to win, do a task, fulfill a dream, achieve a goal is desire: to want it just a little bit more than the next guy (or girl) and give maximum effort to do it.

It’s a very simple solution that their great grandparents could have taught them. Just outwork everybody else.

I want them to believe, no matter what, Mom and Dad will always have their back. Enough said here. My wife and I could not imagine loving anyone more. We’ve got your back.

I want them to believe that no matter how old they get, living the dream is always possible. Even if they get caught up in the cycle of education, getting a job, paying the bills, wrestling with the mortgage, and wondering if a retirement is even possible… they can always believe in something more, no matter what “it” is.

Even if you’re in your forties and you still wonder what you may be when you finally grow up…you’ve still got time.

That’s my case. What do you believe in?

Two Years Later, And The Best Is Yet To Come

I published my first post here two years ago, On Writing, With A Comeback Twist not really knowing what to expect. I thought the internet was a magical thing that, with a wave of a wand, would bring me a flood of readers.

What it did bring, in the words of my friend Marcus Sheridan, was crickets. That sound you hear late at night, when nobody’s around and it doesn’t look like any one is coming.

But that was OK, looking back. I wrote and hit “publish” just because it was something I wanted to do. I wanted a little project outside of my paid “work”. Something that gave life a little more juice.

In other words, I wrote for myself first. If someone found me and wanted to read, awesome. But I was writing for them second.

Things have changed a bit, and I’ve learned how to share my writing, as well as others’ work, through social media. Readership has grown, and I have made some friends and connections from writing here at this site.

I hate to use the word “passion”, as it’s a term that seems so overused these days. But I knew I was on the track to something when I hit publish and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

I’ve deviated at times from the subjects that I set out to write about in the beginning. You need a new topic every once in a while to keep things fresh. The original goal is still the same, however.

I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. My biggest influences growing up were Italian immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. My grandmother, grandfather, and my godmother. Old School inspiration.

My Dad with my grandparents, Rose and Sebastian DeGiorgio, circa 1946

It is my very firm opinion that the America of 2011 could learn a lot from the immigrant generations that preceded those of us that were just getting started twenty or thirty years ago.

If you have known me for any length of time, my job here is to remind you of these cornerstones of my life, and make sure you don’t forget them.

If for some reason you are brand new, then let me make the introductions. If I do my job right, they are people you won’t soon forget.

From the last two years, here are some of the best:

The Last Sicilian, And The Gift Of Tradition

Reflections on Memorial Day And A Salute To A Soldier Long Gone

Thoughts On Work Ethic, My Grandfather’s Hands, And Stone Cold Winters

Absolute Requirements of the Italian Kitchen

“Life Is Precious”, Epilogue

Memories Of My Grandfather

I’ve really enjoyed myself posting to this site for the last two years. I think, with the help of Gabrielle the guest poster, we’ll have much more content ready to go in the months to come. Although I began just “writing for myself”, nowadays I appreciate new readers stopping by to check it out. You can help with this by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to spread the word. Thanks!


Giving All For God And Country

It would be hard not to feel a lump in your throat hearing the grim details of the soldiers that included members of Navy Seal Team 6 killed over the weekend when the helicopter they were being transported in was shot down over a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan.

(There were also soldiers on that helicopter who were not Navy Seals. Here’s a riveting post about one of them.)

IMG_3904Notable was the story of Aaron Vaughn, husband, father of two, and staunch defender of our country’s freedom as a SEAL.

As I watched the interview with his widow and parents, I learned he epitomized “old school” principles that you hardly ever hear much about in the media, unless an event like this occurs.

Love of God

His father related that Aaron was a person of deep faith, who let that faith guide him to the convictions that he believed in. His father said “He believed…. that he was obliged as a Christian believer to fight fundamental Islamic terrorists around this world because he believed it was a threat to his children and to his wife and to all of our western civilization way of life.”

In an age where some individuals try to take the word “God” out of everything, hearing about this man’s beliefs was a refreshing change.

Love of Country

September 11 was a turning point for Aaron in his desire to become a Navy SEAL, according to his dad. He put his country first simply by making the decision to become a elite member of American special forces, and put his life on the line every day to protect our way of life.

At a time when patriotism is void from our minds, or at best a part time pursuit, men like Aaron prove to be the ultimate patriots.

Love of Family

Vaughn loved his duties as a Navy SEAL. I’m sure the job of being a dad was something he gave his all to as well. Those of us that are with our families on a very regular basis no doubt take that time for granted.

Vaughn was away from his family for hundreds of days at a time. Being a father of two very young children, he had little opportunity to see them grow and took full advantage of the limited time he had with them. He was with his newborn daughter only briefly before returning to combat.

These details make concrete the fact not only are these members of our American military the ultimate fighters, but also ultimate believers: God, country, family. Truly old school stuff we need more of.

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The Last Sicilian, and the Gift of Tradition

She worked in a kitchen that was small by modern standards. To see it, you would think it was the size of a walk-in closet in some homes.

She worked her magic on a tiny stove that had very little room to waste. How she managed to squeeze coffee pots, saute’ pans, and giant sauce pots on it without a major catastrophe still remains a mystery.

Old school boxing trainer Angelo Dundee once said that heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali could train his body for a bout in a space the size of a phone booth. My great aunt, Nicolina Carucci, did the comparable with her masterwork in her kitchen.

My “Aunt Nicky,” as most of my family members called her, was my grandmother’s younger sister, and she was my godmother as well. She helped welcome me here by bathing my little infant head in holy water, and it was the start of a beautiful relationship.

She passed away a few years ago, like her sister living well into her 90’s. It’s still strange without either one of them here to boss me around.

I grew up in a world where consistency was the name of the game. The sound of the Italian language, the smells of food always cooking, the ritual of the coffee, and all the holiday and family traditions. Steady as they come. Always present.

That world is nearly gone. For our kids to be reminded of tradition and experience how I grew up, we have to take that ball and run with it. So traditions don’t disappear from view.

If my wife or myself don’t make those wonderful meatballs with onions and bacon that was Nicky’s recipe, or set a pot of simmering sauce on the stove on Sundays, disappear they will.

Aunt Nicky spent her last few months of life in a nursing home, and my father and I would visit on Sundays. We’d wheel her out to the cafeteria, and talk about the swill she was about to eat. I would joke with her, telling her it was time to get out of the chair and go to work on the homemade manicotti so we could all have a good meal.

I hope someday, somewhere, I can find something remotely close to that manicotti again.

I’d also joke with her about how she was “the last in line” or “the last Sicilian.” She was not the last Sicilian of course, but she was the last of a long line of very influential people on my grandmother’s side of the family. Influential to me. The men and women who are now part of my history book, traditions needing to be chronicled before atrophy of the mind takes over.

My wife and I loved going to Aunt Nicky’s house just about every Friday for lunch. At times she would do just a cheese omelet with toast,  or a small pot roast on top of the stove. Or a stuffed meatloaf that she called Italian Style. A very simple meal, but one with great taste. The meal would always be accompanied by a glass of red wine in a tumbler glass. Or two.

She always fascinated my wife and I with stories of her younger days: living in the seaside town of Terracina in Italy, making it sound like the perfect vacation spot.  Of surviving bombing raids that were a little too close for comfort during World War II; and ducking German soldiers looking to loot through the properties that they had just destroyed.

Life wasn’t easy here in America, either. She did a lifetime of very physical work while she lived here, and she had more than her share of troubles and heartache. But like the rest of her family, she was a fighter that always moved forward and did what she could to live her best life possible.

My wife had thanked me on more than a couple of occasions for giving her the gift of a relationship with my godmother. I understand how she feels. She was a gift to me too.

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The Fire And The Freedom: A Guest Post

I’m 48 years old. Suddenly my life is flying by at hyper speed.

When I was a boy, then a teenager, the days, the weeks, the months were long. Summers spent playing ball and hanging out with friends seemed like they lasted forever. Time stood still after the school year was done, and we did the things that set us free.

Remember Ferris Bueller, and that movie’s most famous quote?

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

After my wife and I were married, and my daughter was born, time stood still there as well. I could not imagine her as anything but an infant.

Pretty fast. Yeah, like lightning fast.

Now, the power of youth for me has taken a rest stop, and I’m the father of a teenager. I’m staring her college years square in the face, and I want to run the other way. Sinatra once crooned about the autumn of his years, but no one ever informed me about how rapidly the season’s colors change when you have kids.

I’m in denial because I still feel like a kid myself.

But there’s an upside to me (and my kids) getting older.

My daughter is smart, witty, and quick on (and with) her feet. She is learning to play guitar, is an aspiring photographer, and already is a talented artist. And she writes. She writes from her gut and plays with her words like they’re her toys. I planned on posting her writing here someday, when I thought she may be as good as Dad.

Who am I kidding. Someday is here.

This is your work, Gabrielle. About the freedom, fire, and the passion that you already see at your young age. I’m proud to share…

______________________________________________________________

fire is simple. it creates warmth and comfort. but also massive destruction. fire breathes and sighs as its handler effortlessly turns its energy into entertainment. i dont know why this dawned on me last night. while i was surrounded by joyful pyros playing with death by eating and spinning the flames, but it did remind me of the very first time i had ever seen this with my own eyes.

it was last fall, the night air was freezing everywhere else, but as soon as i stepped into the circle of fire it was warm, hot almost. i couldnt tell whether it was the fire or the extraordinary people. my first thought these people are insane! or suicidal! and i couldnt figure out why, i, someone who burned myself multiple time in earth science class, was here. i shouldve been home studying or watching tv. I began to watch the spinners, my eyes focused on the fire, trying to distract myself from the lingering ache i had deep in my gut, it wasnt until i began to get up close and video tape my friend jake while he twisted and turned the fire around himself and then me as i closed in with my mother’s cell phone that took videos.

At first i just wanted a video of this fire, coiling around us like a snake, when i caught the face of my friend. free. happy.and emitting some sort of magical energy that seems childish. When i sat back down i studied the other pyros faces. all wearing the same happy free childish face. I realized that was the magic of this place, what drew all these extraordinary people here. it wasnt the fire. it was the freedom. and that was the last time i ever saw the fire spinners. until last night.

as i stepped into the square last night, i hid behind my own freedom. my camera. this time i wasnt looking for the eye catching fire and multiple colored balls that would fly through the air all night, i was looking to somehow capture the mood here, in these people, in my photos somehow. it was hotter then i remember it to be, and louder. everybody was laughing or playing the bongos or playing with fire. i took pictures from every angle i could, yet i couldnt grasp with my camera what i saw with my eyes. maybe i wasnt doing it right. i soon caved in  and sat next to my friends whom i hadnt seen in quite some time, and gabbed on with the three of them for most of the night. in one of those awkward moments of silence, i knew the reason why my camera couldnt capture the energy around this place. my camera (although its my baby) couldnt see like humans do.

and what was here is that these people found their weekly escape. their passion. their freedom to be themselves. which is seen very little now a days, since everyone just cares about the money or how many things they have to make them ‘happy’. but this was happy. so please reader, if you are the average joe, stop it. wheres the freedom and your passion? hell, i dont know, go out and find it. while you do that, i will hide behind my camera, and try to capture what i see.

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