Lazy Day Sundays–Gratitude Day 22

There was nothing lazy about today, but being home to get caught up feels likes downtime to me. When I’m running around all week, all I look forward to is one day to sleep in and do stuff around the house.

I slept until the dogs made themselves known by barking at whatever noises freaked them out. That was fine, since I had a whole list of items I wanted to finish. The usual–laundry, vacuum the piles of dog hair, use my dishwasher that finally got fixed (woo hoo!), clear the dining room table, food shop, bills, etc. See, not so lazy of a day.

It was such a beautiful day out that I had to take the time to enjoy it and walk the dogs. Lauren who lives next door and Addy who lives across the street love walking the dogs with me. Today they were playing together (they are 7) and asked to walk the dogs. So we took a stroll, they basically ran with the dogs and talked. Not stressing about what needs to be done and spending time with the kids on the street makes it a lazy and wonderful day.

orzosoup

After food shopping, I made an orzo soup that was perfect for a day of chilling and catching up. My husband’s lazy day consisted of playing soccer, then cleaning up the yard and gardens, and prepping for winter. The soup was just what we needed to slow down.

Now that the bills are paid and there’s still some money left over (another woo hoo!), I’m going to chill out and read.

The upcoming week may be plum crazy, but today was plain lazy, and I’m grateful for both.

Sometimes We Need a Guide

Stephen with Poppa and Nick at birth2
My Dad and my sons, Nick (age 2) and Stephen (just born)

I dreamt of my immediate and extended family last night. We were all together under one massive roof, playing cards, going through boxes, swimming outside, and preparing food. My cousin, Christine, popped in all dressed and ready to go shopping with her hair piled high on her head, her eyes sparkling with green eyeshadow. She told me that everything will be OK and smiled her radiant grin.

Many times my dreams are my guide, but sometimes our guides are those right around us in waking life. They are a mirror that truly reflects what we have in us, but are afraid to reveal.

When a person is going through an illness, loss, or some type of adversity, we notice how strong they are or are amazed by their positive attitude. We see in them what we wish we had in ourselves.

Their bravery peels away a layer of self-doubt in us, and we wonder what would happen if we were that brave and removed all the layers. It’s as if that person is giving us permission to be our true self.

Often if we have never been in this kind of situation, we look around us for examples to emulate. When my son, Nick, became ill at 12 years old, he didn’t have a guide. He was innately brave, strong, and compassionate. He behaved very much like his Poppa who battled cancer two times, then passed away after his third battle, when Nick was two.

Nick became my guide on how I wanted to live my life, although living without him is extremely hard. He did teach me, however, that I don’t have to be strong all the time, and it’s important to let others know that and allow help. But he also taught me how to give back, to have compassion, to lead the way through devastation to a road where anything is possible.

Nick’s most powerful lesson was to be myself no matter what the world thought of me. He already knew what I have been trying to learn my entire life.

Live authentically and you are your own guide.

Be enthusiastic about what or who you love, and you will receive love back. 

Never give up, but live on your own terms, your own path. 

Know that as much as you learn from other’s guidance, you know the way. It’s already in you, and eventually you will be true to yourself.

Who are your guides and what are they showing you about yourself and about your path? How can you turn your awareness inward to find what you need to live authentically through your own guidance?

Settle In Sunday-Easter Holiday Traditions

Yes the ground is covered with many inches of snow, but the spring sun is melting it quickly, so all the eggs can be hidden for Easter in about a month from now. I don’t hide the eggs anymore. I would if the teens and young adults were into it! But three years ago, they had to break it to me that they were too old. The youngest three were 15. I get it, but not really. I may have to bring in an adult Easter egg hunt this year.

cousins-easter
The last Easter the gang was all together.

Easter is at the top of my list for favorite holidays. It’s a time of new beginnings, growth, and hope. I’ve always hosted Easter, and I loved filling the plastic eggs with treats. I would literally have bags and bags of candy and hundreds of empty eggs surrounding me a couple nights before. As long as the weather permitted, the entire backyard would be the hunting area. The candy is always great, but the bonus was the clues found in certain eggs. Sometimes these would be a riddle that the kids would have to decipher in order to find out where the basket of goodies were hidden. The basket has been in the dryer, the car, shower, pretty much anywhere (even the neighbor’s house). I’ve done hidden word puzzles, trivia questions, a scavenger hunt, basically anything to drive the kids nuts and then hopefully be really excited at the end of their adventure.

Before the cousins came, I always had a separate hunt for my boys. The Easter bunny would leave white fur and remnants of the carrots we left out for him. Their eggs would be filled with coins and candy.

When I was a kid, the Easter eggs we colored were the ones hidden around the house. That usually worked out pretty well, unless an egg was forgotten or couldn’t be found. One year there was an awful stench in the living room. A stray hard-boiled egg was found months later in the couch. Yes, pretty nasty! We also dressed up in beautiful dresses, bonnets, and white gloves. We would go to church and then come home for the hunt. When my kids were younger, I tried dressing them up, but that didn’t last too long!

We always colored eggs one or two nights before Easter. It was usually a family event, and we would write family member’s names on the eggs to give to them when they visited.

2005 March Easter
The boys still loved coloring eggs at 10 and 8.

Food has always been a big deal at Easter. I usually make some Italian dish like spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parm, but my mom makes Pastichio, which is Greek macaroni. There is chopmeat at the bottom browned in butter and other ingredients and then tons of eggs and cheese baked with the ziti. It’s a seriously long process and quite a heavy dish, but fantastic.

img_3195
Momma’s Greek macaroni

My sister, Michele, is adventurous with recipes and last year made bread that my Yaya use to make, except Yaya would put quarters in the bread before baking. You really wanted to make sure that you checked it before taking a bite!

img_3188

2005 March Easter2
The Easter bunny was good to these boys!
1998 Easter
Nick and Marisa Easter 1998

Over the last couple years, it’s been harder and harder to get the family together as everyone’s own families grow. But the Easter celebration will always continue. Our friends come over for dessert, and we treasure any time with family and friends. Stephen will hopefully be able to come home or else Easter may just have to come to him.

Being flexible with tradition allows it to continue. Yes there are the staple traditions that keep holidays feeling like hot cocoa on a cold winter day. Soothing, comforting and filled with love. It’s what make coming home for any holiday so precious. Keeping it simple and realizing that being together is the reason for any season.

Settle in Sundays

Family Pets

When I came home this morning from running some errands, my dogs, Zoey and Dakota, happily wagged their tails. I love coming home to my dogs and their unconditional love.

I prefer big dogs, and I often wonder if I will always have a pet or if some point it will be too much.

My first dog was a mix breed, I think. His name was Monday. We had him when we lived in Long Island. My memories of him are dim, but I think he was brown and white. I also think we may have had to give him away. Then we had a white shepherd named Thor. My dad loved dogs and took care of training them. Thor lived outside a lot when we moved to Greenville. He ran along a dog run, but would often get loose and chase the cows and deer. I believe we had to get rid of him too, because of that.

Then there was Sambo. He was a huge black labrador topping 100 pounds. He was an awesome dog, and I basically grew up with him. My sister, Michele, loved cats so we had a bunch in there along the way. We didn’t have too much luck with the cats unfortunately, but I remember a photo of Sambo and Willie when they were the same size.

We lost Sambo when he got hit by a car on our road. We lived on a back road in Greenville, and people drove down that road so fast. It really was quite dangerous. We were all heart broken, but I think my mom took it the hardest. That Christmas my dad got her another black lab, but her heart couldn’t mend to take another dog in. So Brutus the Barber Beefcake became my first dog. I had met my current husband only a few days before so Brutus was always Luke’s too. Brutus lived me with in my first and only apartment, and then he moved into our first house when Luke and I got married. Brutus was always by my side when I was pregnant. Even though he started slowing down when the boys were little, he had the perfect personality for them. Brutus passed away in 2003 after 15 wonderful years.

Nick Marisa and brutus 1997
Brutus with Nick and his cousin, Marisa

 

For the first time in my life I didn’t have a dog. It had turned out that I was allergic to them, so it was an easy decision not to get another one. The only problem was that our boys, especially Nick, wanted another dog terribly. Nick had a hamster named Chipper and Stephen had one named Zippy who met with an untimely death when he squished his head behind his hamster wheel!

When Nick became ill, I regretted not getting him a dog, and when he passed it was a decision that deeply saddened me. I adopted Zoey three months after Nick passed. I just happened to be driving to the store and saw this gray bundle in a cart going into Pet Smart. I fell in love with Zoey and my allergies have never reacted to her. I think it has something to do with the fact that she isn’t a purebred. Who knows or maybe it was that I needed her too much.

IMG_2937
Zoey Shadow–Black Lab and Akita mix

Then two years later Dakota came along, because Zoey was a momma’s girl! Stephen picked out Dakota and Zoey approved her while Luke was away on business. Luckily it worked out and having two dogs is an adventure.

IMG_2790
Dakota Kenny–Black Lab, Shepherd and Tennessee wild dog!

Dogs fulfill my life in a way that is hard to describe. Even my siblings have had or continue to get dogs, and Stephen plans on having at least three when he’s on his own. They love you no matter what and our dogs tell our life stories. Where we were emotionally, physically, and socially; they know more about us than we will ever know. They understand us, protect us, and love us no matter what we do. I think I’ll have a dog as long as I can.

What types of pets did you have as a child? Who’s pet were they? Or were you not allowed to have pets and how has that affected you as an adult; tons of pets or none? What do you love about have pets and what does your dog say about you?

Settle in Sundays

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! Yes, I know the Giants aren’t playing, but with some traditions come loyalty. My husband and his dad have always been Giants fans during the good and bad times. By proxy, my boys became Giants fans. Nick especially took the family loyalty seriously and dressed the part for the 2008 Giants vs. Patriots game on February 3. Giants did win, so I thought this post was appropriate!

img_1006
Nick was an avid Giants fan! February 3, 2008
giantsandguys
The men heading to Giants training camp at SUNY Albany. Annual tradition

Traditions create precious and priceless memories. Each summer the boys’ dad and grandpa took them to the practice fields to watch the players practice. They even had the opportunity to get their hats signed and say hello to some of the players. Besides the fact that they were watching their favorite team play, it provided an amazing opportunity for all four Cammarata men to bond and spend time together.

What I love about this photo is that not only are they all wearing their unique Giants cap, but their shirts express their specific interests. Dad always wore a blue shirt and his gold chain. He worked hard at Verizon as a fiber optics technician. He passed on 2014 and watching Giants play football just isn’t the same. Stephen was really into riding dirt bikes and loved Travis Pastrana. Nick was an avid swimmer and swam on two different teams throughout the year. Luke is the quintessential fix it man. Our friends’ kids come to Luke when they need something fixed, and  working with tools come naturally to him. He and his dad installed the hardwood floors in our kitchen and family room.

img_3187
Nick getting Eli Manning to sign his hat.
nick-stephen-and-giants
Justin Tuck was wonderful with the boys.

Tradition sustains when tragedy hits. In 2008, Nick was diagnosed with leukemia. The child life specialist at the clinic noticed that Nick liked the Giants. She gave him a baseball hat and arranged for the boys to meet all the players. They were beyond excited. They walked around asking everyone to sign their hats. (Well Nick did. Stephen was a bit starstruck.) The tradition of going to the Giants turned into a precious event for a teen who was struggling with cancer. It gave him hope and joy if even for an afternoon.

 

img_0731
Stephen, me, and my hubby, Luke

The Giants pulled out of Albany for training camp, but even though this particular tradition discontinued, Luke and Stephen continued in memory of Nick and Grandpa. I was honored to become a part of the tradition.

We keep traditions for many reasons. They reflect our values, express our loyalties, and create memories that evoke joy and gratitude, despite sadness when those who began the tradition are no longer with us. Traditions connect us, and I’m sure Nick and his Grandpa are watching this year’s Super Bowl wearing their Giants gear.

What is your Super Bowl tradition?

Settle in Sundays

Camp Cammarata

cousins-2
Most of the gang celebrating Justin’s bday

It all started when the boys were little and their cousins stayed on the weekend, during school break or over the summer. I have always loved having lots of kids around and wanted to build that strong bond amongst the cousins. As the children of my siblings, my nieces and nephews are extensions of a beautiful family that I cherish.

I remember my twin nephews, Alex and Anthony, staying over when Nick was about 1. They were all so little and excited about the sleepover. I think my sister was more nervous than excited, but they survived, we tried to do it at least a couple times a year.

As more kids were born (11 in all amongst my family, my two sisters, and my brother), the sleepovers grew and turned into Camp Cammarata. It included everyone sleeping in the living room or basement, going to the town pool to swim, and taking walks in the woods with the dogs.

After Nick passed, these sleepovers lasted for a few days and was a constant solace to Stephen who missed his sibling. I think it was also a balm to his cousins, who felt the loss deep in their hearts, as we were always a very close family.

cousins
Connections bonded by love

I hope that the memories created during these visits and sleepovers are as deeply felt by my son, nieces and nephews. Taking the time to be with those you love, especially when they get older and move away is paramount to keeping a tight family even tighter.

I miss the years when our kids played together with love and joy. Well they played nicely most of the time. As much as they played together, they fought too!

Camp Cammarata will always be here for anyone who wants to come and stay! Full breakfast included!

What are some summer or annual traditions that you have with your family, whether siblings, cousins, or children? How can  you create strong bonds among extended family or within your family as children grow up and move away? What feeling do you want to create with your loved ones–commitment, love, togetherness, honesty, openness, fun? You are the catalyst.

Settle in Sundays

It’s a mellow Sunday morning. I’m relaxing by the fire and catching up on my reading and writing. Yesterday, my sister, Michele, her family, and our mom came over for a weekend meal. I made meatballs and sauce for subs and minestrone soup packed with veggies. Michele’s husband, Rich, loves to cook and made a chicken cutlet version of Nick’s sandwich (I will explain this sandwich another time).

While the guys watched football, the gals started on a murder mystery puzzle, where you read a story, put the puzzle together, and solve the mystery.

puzzlemystery

While solving this type of mystery isn’t common for us, puzzles have been a family tradition since I was very little. I got into puzzles when I fractured my shin when at 8 years old. I read books, recorded songs on a tape cassette from the radio, and put together a lot of puzzles. My bedroom had been covered from wall to wall with every type of puzzle imaginable. Some were intricate pictures of everything I loved and some were a solid color so that you had to place pieces by shape.

My dad also loved doing puzzles and when we moved to Greenville from Long Island, he still traveled to the city for work. He was often gone, so missed out on doing a lot of the puzzles and so many other parts of our lives. I’m not sure how it started, but we didn’t want to finish without him, so we left a piece out. When Dad came home he would press that last piece in, and we would cheer. This tradition continued for years, even waiting for my dad to visit my home, so he could put in the last piece.

Our family doesn’t put together puzzles much anymore. So doing this mystery puzzle creates a nostalgic effect, especially since my dad has been gone for almost 20 years.

janineanddad
My Dad and I at my College of Saint Rose Dance

I always looked forward to my dad coming home. When he put that last piece in, my puzzle and my world were complete. Now he resides in my heart and this puzzle tradition created a beautiful memory.

What did you and your family do together when you were a child?

Is it something you can bring into your current family if you are on your own now?

Create the activity and before you know it, your family will think of it as tradition.

Settle In Sundays

sunday-sauce

Growing up, Sundays were meant for cooking sauce and meatballs, relaxing with the family, and settling in for some good food and great company. My mom would spend hours  browning the meat, mixing and frying her top notch meatballs, and slowly cook the sauce all day so that the juices of the meat soaked in adding the perfect flavor.

Sometimes we had ravioli or spaghetti or rigatoni mixed with ricotta cheese. Loaves of Italian bread would be cut up and a big salad would finish off the meal. Coming together over pasta every Sunday was a way to connect the family that was always going in different directions. With four kids and a dad who was often away during the week for work, it solidified what was important and that we were a unit that could get through anything.

When we all had our own families, for a very long time we kept the tradition of Sunday meals with whomever lived close by. Even if it wasn’t every Sunday, at least we kept the connection a couple times a month. Now that all our children are either on their own or in school, it gets harder and harder to get together. It’s easier to make excuses and only get together on holidays.

But that’s not what our family stands for. I have a wonderful time with my immediate and extended family. I miss not getting together every week. Of course with life as crazy as it is, maybe every week is too much to ask. But having a monthly Sunday where we can all settle in, share our stories, and enjoy our company is something I long for.

I plan to reinstate Pasta Sundays in the hopes that this tradition of love and family bonds will continue.

Each Sunday, I will share a family tradition. What is a family tradition that you remember as a child or have started with your own family? I’d love to hear about it!